Yankeemetrics: Seattle sweep! (June 1-3)

This is what a game-winning homer looks like. (AP)
This is what a game-winning homer looks like. (AP)

King me!
The Yankees’ season-long trend of #weirdbaseball continued on Monday night when they destroyed one of the best pitchers on the planet, Felix Hernandez, tagging him for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings in a 7-2 win over the Mariners.

Of course, this performance came less than 24 hours after they lost three-of-four games to the worst team in the American League (A’s), which followed a sweep of the best team in the American League (Royals). But you knew all that stuff already.

What you might not know is that:

• The Yankees were the first team ever to score at least seven runs and draw five walks against King Felix in a game.
Mark Teixeira is just the second player to hit a grand slam against Hernandez in Seattle (joining the legend of Alberto Callaspo).
• Teixeira now has six career homers against Hernandez, the most of any player against the former Cy Young winner.
• King Felix had a 1.79 ERA in his previous five starts against the Yankees, which was the second-best mark by any pitcher who started at least two games vs. the team in that span (since July 24, 2012).

Teixeira was the big star of the game, so let’s give him some more props here. He now has 18 homers at Safeco Field, which is the most of any visiting player at the ballpark. His grand slam was the first by any Yankee in Seattle since Bernie Williams hit one against J.J. Putz on May 16, 2005. And before Teixeira, no Yankee first baseman had ever hit a homer with the bases loaded against the Mariners. History, folks.

Jones, Drew … You gotta be kidding?
One of the Yankees’ most unlikely wins of the season was sparked by perhaps the most unlikeliest of heroes on Tuesday night.

Trailing 2-1 and down to the final strike, Stephen Drew and his .160 batting average knocked a game-tying double into right field to send the game into extras. Excluding pinch-hitters, it had been 40 years since a Yankee batting ninth in the order had a game-tying, two-out hit in the ninth inning (Rich Coggins in 1975 against the Brewers).

Garrett Jones then delivered the game-winner in the top of the 11th, crushing a three-run homer off lefty Joe Beimel to break the 2-2 tie. He became the first Yankee with a go-ahead homer in the 11th inning or later in Seattle since Kevin Maas on May 5, 1991.

How unlikely was the win for the Yankees? Not only were they 0-3 in extra innings this season before Tuesday, but they also had lost all 23 games this season that they trailed entering the ninth inning.

Hook, line and sinker
The Yankees finished off their sweep of the Mariners with a 3-1 win on Wednesday, extending their win streak in Seattle to eight games. That’s the team’s longest road win streak vs. the Mariners in franchise history.

Masahiro Tanaka pitched a gem in his first game back since going on the DL more than a month ago, striking out nine batters without a walk and allowing just one run in seven brilliant innings. The only other Yankee pitcher to put up that line (0 BB, at least 9 K, 1 run or fewer) in Seattle was Scott Sanderson on May 3, 1991.

This day was a milestone marker for Tanaka, his 25th game in the majors, and he’s done quite a lot in those 25 outings. Consider these numbers among pitchers to debut in the last 100 years:

• 16 wins are tied with Mel Stottlemyre for the most by any Yankee in his first 25 career games.
• 174 strikeouts are the most by any Yankee in his first 25 games, and the third-most by any AL pitcher, behind Yu Darvish (188) and Herb Score (180).
• 1.01 WHIP is the lowest mark by any Yankee in his first 25 games (min. 50 IP).

Mark Teixeira found the outfield seats at Safeco once again, clubbing his 379th career homer, which matches Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez for 67th place all-time. It was also his 35th home run against the Mariners, tied with Juan Gonzalez for the fourth-most against the franchise. Only Rafael Palmeiro (52), Manny Ramirez (39) and Frank Thomas (36) have hit more.

Thoughts following the West Coast road trip

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

All things considered, the seven-game West Coast trip went pretty well for the Yankees. Yeah, they couldn’t get out of their own way against the Athletics, but the three-game sweep of the Mariners was pretty sweep. Ditto getting Masahiro Tanaka back, especially considering how sharp he looked. Anyway, here are some thoughts on the off-day.

1. The Brian McCann injury is a problem. He’s heading for an MRI today, and Joe Girardi told reporters yesterday that McCann has been nursing a sore foot for more than a week now. Apparently it became too much to take yesterday. McCann said it hurt most when he was squatting behind the plate, so yeah, that’s a problem. Hopefully this is something that can be knocked out with some treatment and a few days on the bench. If not, do the Yankees call up Austin Romine or Gary Sanchez? Romine would have to be re-added to the 40-man roster, and whenever McCann comes back Romine would have to go through waivers to go back to Triple-A. Sanchez could go up and down no problem. I suppose this depends on the severity of the injury. If it’s a short-term thing, Sanchez would be the easier temporary move. If it’s a long-term injury — we’re all hoping it isn’t, obviously — jumping through those hoops to bring Romine back would be best. Either way, losing McCann would be a major blow. The Yankees need him both in the lineup and behind the plate, and that’s coming from the world’s biggest John Ryan Murphy fan.

2. Brendan Ryan is close to coming back soon — he’s already played three minor league rehab games, including two at Triple-A — prompting Girardi to tell Chad Jennings earlier this week that he was “not so sure exactly what the move will be (to get Ryan on the roster), but our thought is when he’s ready, we’ll bring him back.” David Carpenter getting designated for assignment yesterday clears a 40-man spot for Ryan, who has to come off the 60-day DL, and I assume Jose Pirela will be sent down to clear a 25-man roster spot. Pirela hasn’t played well enough offensively or defensively to force the team to consider keeping him. As crazy as it sounds, Ryan might actually be the team’s best utility infielder option at this point. He’s not going to hit, we all know that, but he will at least catch the ball, something Pirela hasn’t done. Gregorio Petit? He’s basically the poor man’s version of Ryan. After spending the last few weeks wondering where Ryan fit, it seems like there’s a pretty obvious place for him on the roster right now. Funny how things work out.

3. The Carpenter move surprised me only because I didn’t think the Yankees would sacrifice the pitching depth and cut bait on a previously reliable reliever they controlled for another three years after only 18.2 innings. I thought they’d simply send Jacob Lindgren down and keep running Carpenter out there, hoping he’d figure it out. I’m sure they’ll be able to trade Carpenter for something before the ten days are up — nothing great, but something, and they might already have a deal lined up — but it sucks things fell apart so quickly. I am happy Lindgren is sticking around though, even if he’s not in the Circle of Trust™ yet. That takes a little time. Look at Dellin Betances last year. I think Lindgren could be a real asset out of the bullpen for Girardi once he gets settled in and realizes he’s a big league caliber reliever. It’s a shame Carpenter didn’t work out, but I am excited the Yankees showed so much faith in Lindgren. It would have been real easy to send him back to Triple-A.

Rafael Soriano1
Soriano. (Getty)

4. Now, that said, doesn’t it make sense for the Yankees to at least explore signing Rafael Soriano? They only have two right-handers in the bullpen, one awesome (Betances) and one not so awesome (Esmil Rogers). That’s not really a big deal because the various lefty relievers can get righties out, but we all know Girardi likes his matchups, so at some point he’s going to bring Rogers into a high-leverage spot to get the right-on-right matchup. It’s inevitable. Soriano had a 3.19 ERA (3.08 FIP) with a 23.4 K% with the Nationals last year, so while he’s no longer the Soriano of old, he’s probably better than Rogers and a more capable No. 2 righty complement for Betances. Soriano just fired Scott Boras, presumably because he’s not happy he’s still unemployed, so maybe he’d be willing to return to the Yankees on the cheap. One year and $2M or something along those lines. I don’t see much of a downside. If he won’t sign cheap, you don’t sign him. If he will sign cheap, bring him aboard and see what he can do. If he stinks, you cut him loose and wind up right back where you started. At the very least, it’s worth looking into Soriano and seeing if he’s willing to sign cheap and pitch in a quasi-setup role. There’s little downside.

5. Chase Headley‘s sudden inability to make routine plays this year is really annoying. It’s just routine plays too, you notice that? He still makes great defensive plays all the time. The routine ones are becoming an issue. That to me suggests at least part of the problem is mental. Thinking is bad in baseball. Bad things happen when players start thinking. Ideally they would rely on instincts. When Headley gets an easy play, he’s had trouble making it because there’s so much time to think. When he’s had to hustle to make a tough play, he’s made it with no problem. Maybe I’m wrong, but that what it seems like to me. Headley’s bat has come around of late (.300/.344/.450 in his last 22 games) and he still makes all the tough plays at third base, but the easy ones? They’re an adventure. It’s the weirdest thing. I think he’ll get over it in due time. But man, this has been a surprise. I was not expecting to get nervous every time a ground ball is hit towards third base this season.

6. Didi Gregorius has been hitting better of late (.299/.340/.420 in his last 14 games) and lately it appears he is really focusing on hitting the ball the other way. He was jumpy at the plate earlier this season, trying to hook everything to right field, but now Gregorius seems more relaxed and is stroking the ball out to left. The data backs it up too. Here are Didi’s spray charts before the start of the last homestand (the series against the Rangers) and since the start of the homestand, via Texas Leaguers. You can click the image for a larger view:

Didi Gregorius spray charts

Since the start of the homestand 14 days ago, Gregorius has pulled just four balls to right field, with two leaving the yard and two others falling in for hits. Everything else has been hit to left and center fields, so I’m not going crazy. He is spraying the ball the other way more often now. Is it intentional? Who knows. It appears Gregorius is focusing on hitting the ball to the opposite while still being able to unload and pull a pitch with authority when he gets something to drive. This is something to monitor. Didi still makes dopey plays in the field, but his bat has slowly but surely coming around.

7. Given how well he’s been hitting of late, I think the Yankees should play Garrett Jones in left field while Jacoby Ellsbury is out, at least against right-handed pitchers. I like Ramon Flores and think he’s going to wind up spending like a decade in the show as a Seth Smith type, but Jones has game-changing power, and the Yankees are better off with him in the lineup than Flores right now. If McCann has to miss time with his foot issue, playing Jones in left becomes even more of a no-brainer. They’d have to replace the lost left-handed pop somehow. Jones was terrible in April, probably because he rarely played, but he’s now 10-for-22 (.455) with three homers in his last nine games. Ride the wave, baby. Milk this hot streak for all its worth before he goes cold again. There will plenty of time to play Flores later in the season.

DotF: Tampa throws 11.1 no-hit innings, loses in 16 innings

OF Dustin Fowler was placed on the Low-A Charleston 7-day DL, the team announced. Not sure what’s wrong with him. 1B Bo Thompson was activated off the temporary inactive list to fill the roster spot. Thompson was suspended 50 games late last year after testing positive for a banned substance.

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

  • CF Mason Williams: 1-3, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB — 15-for-40 (.375) in his last ten games
  • 2B Brendan Ryan & LF Ben Gamel: both 0-4, 2 K
  • DH Rob Refsnyder: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K — got picked off first
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 SB
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 BB, 3 K, 5/4 GB/FB — 52 of 105 pitches were strikes (50%) … ties his career high in walks set back in Double-A in 2013
  • RHP Danny Burawa: 3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 3/2 GB/FB — 28 of 47 pitches were strikes (60%)

[Read more…]

Tanaka dominates Mariners, Yankees finish sweep with 3-1 win

Having a good day? Why not add a Yankees’ West Coast sweep to garnish it? The Yankees not only won three straight against the Seattle Mariners for a sweep, Nipponese ace Masahiro Tanaka pitched like he never missed a beat in his first start off the DL — certainly a welcome sight any day of the season.

Splitter! (Source: Getty)

Ma-kun!

Stuff-wise, Tanaka looked really good. His fastball velocity was around 91~94 mph, touching 95 and 96 at times. Against left-handers he threw some aesthetically-pleasing 2-seamers that spilled over into the strike zone. His other pitches — slider, splitter and the occasional get-me-over curveball — worked as he planned. When you have a guy like Tanaka with the command he showed and pitches he’s able to mix, you have a formidable ace.

The righty did run into a little trouble though. In the bottom of the third, Tanaka allowed a leadoff triple to Brad Miller. Dustin Ackley followed it up with an RBI double to deep left. Later on, Logan Morrison hit a single that would have scored Ackley … except Ramon Flores‘s strong arm totally denied the Mariners a run. He threw Ackley out at the plate. Well, those three hits were all the baserunners Tanaka allowed today.

Despite his 80-pitch limit, Ma-kun managed to throw seven innings (78 pitches and 58 strikes). His last pitch, by the way, clocked at 96 mph. How about that? Especially after all the velocity concerns the media and fans had at the beginning of the season. Pretty good to have another ace-caliber guy in the rotation, doesn’t it?

Teix, dingers, gluten-free, etc. (Source: Getty)

Offense did, well, just enough

Taijuan Walker looked quite impressive in top of first, showing off a mid-90’s fastball and swing-and-miss offspeed pitches. In the second inning however, Mark Teixeira drove a pitch just above a right-center field wall to give the Yanks a 1-0 lead. It was his 16th home run of the year. His power is just unreal this season. He has a .333 isolated power stat, which leads the American League. Gluten-free!

In the fourth inning, with a runner on first base, Garrett Jones turned it loose on an 89-mph offspeed pitch and hit it into the right field seats. 3-1 Yanks. Boy oh boy, Jonesy is hot right now. He now has two homers in Safeco Field as opposed to Robinson Cano‘s one. He now has a .258/.292/.452 line in 65 plate appearances, good for an about-league-average 104 wRC+. Given ohow cold he was in April and a portion of May, I’ll take it.

So yeah: two homers and three runs. Thanks to strong pitching, Yankees didn’t need any more run support. Love that this team is capable of driving balls out of the park again.

Dicey Eighth 

Chris Capuano entered the game as the eighth inning guy. He allowed a single but struck out Miller. Esmil Rogers and Andrew Miller were warming in the bullpen, and with one out in eighth, Girardi opted for the big lefty to get a five-out save. Heh. I sort of feared Esmil Rogers-as-the-eighth-inning-guy scenario.

Miller, who is a great reliever no doubt, can get into a trouble or two with his sometimes-imperfect command. He hit the pinch-hitting Rickie Weeks (just barely on the right leg) to put another runner on. Then against Mike Zunino, he completely lost the plate, allowing a four-pitch walk to a guy who only walked 3.8% of the plate appearances last season. Bases loaded and only one out, welp.

With a two-run lead in jeopardy, Logan Morrison stepped up to plate. Miller threw three consecutive balls, seemingly getting closer to make it a 3-2 ballgame. The lefty then threw two fastball strikes in a row – the second one being right down the middle that Morrison swung and missed. On the pitch No. 6, Miller threw a slider down and away that fooled LoMo for a swinging strikeout. Whew. That was stressful. Miller came back out in the ninth again and had a much cleaner inning – two strikeouts and only a single allowed for a 17th save of the year.

Leftover

Brian McCann exited the game in the second inning after limping a bit grounding out. Later, we learned that he has a sore right foot and will go to New York tomorrow to get an MRI. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.

Box Score, WPA, Standings, etc.

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


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees get a day off tomorrow and return to Bronx. They will face the Angels for another three-game series. Enjoy the rest of your night and the Yanks’ day off, guys.

Wednesday Night Open Thread

Things got a little hairy this afternoon, but the Yankees held on to beat the Mariners and sweep the three-game series in Seattle. It was basically the perfect series too. Beat up on Felix Hernandez in the first game, ninth inning comeback in the second game, and a dominant return by Masahiro Tanaka in the third game. Tanaka looked as good as he’s looked at any point this season or last in his first start off the DL. I’m not sure what more we could have wanted to see from him. Tanaka was stellar. Glad he’s back.

Here is tonight’s open thread. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES at 7:30pm ET if you want to see Tanaka again. The Mets are playing later tonight and Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals will be on as well (8pm ET on NBCSN). Talk about those games or anything else here.

2015 Draft: D.J. Stewart

D.J. Stewart | OF

Background
The Yankees selected the 21-year-old Stewart out of a Florida high school in the 28th round of the 2012 draft, though he opted not to sign and instead followed through on his commitment to Florida State. Stewart hit .358/.469/.558 with 12 home runs, 78 walks, and 70 strikeouts in 113 games his freshman and sophomore years, and this spring he’s put up a .322/.509/.580 batting line with 13 homers, 69 walks, and 45 strikeouts in 62 games.

Scouting Report
Stewart is a big left-handed masher and he looks the part at 6-foot-0 and 230 lbs, though he is a decent athlete for his size. His offensive game is built on getting on base via his level swing and outstanding strike zone knowledge. Stewart works the count exceptionally well and consistently gets himself into hitter’s counts. His swing is geared more for hard contact than power — he hits from an extreme crouch and doesn’t get the ball airborne as much as you’d expect. Whatever team drafts him will surely try to straighten him up a bit and add a little uppercut to his swing to tap into his raw strength and power. Defensively, Stewart has good instincts and range despite a lack of speed, though his arm is weak and relegates him to left field. If he gets any bigger and slows down any more, he’ll probably have to move to first base.

Miscellany
Baseball America, MLB.com, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Stewart as the 30th, 36th, and 70th best prospect in the 2015 draft class in their most recent rankings, respectively. Stewart’s performance has been off the charts — he also raked against top college pitching with wood bats in the Cape Cod League — and the Yankees drafted him once before, so they liked something about him once upon a time. He’s going to go a lot higher than the 28th round this time though. The Yankees pick 16th and 30th this year and Stewart figures to be available for the second of those two picks.

Game 54: Tanaka Returns

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

After 35 days on the shelf with wrist tendinitis and a minor forearm strain, Masahiro Tanaka makes his hopefully triumph return to the rotation this afternoon. The team insisted the injury was minor — Tanaka was reportedly upset he was placed on the DL — but the Yankees were understandably cautious with their high-priced ace. Tanaka made two Triple-A rehab starts and will be limited to about 80 pitches this afternoon.

That’s the big story on a micro level. On a macro level, the Yankees have a chance to finish off a sweep of the Mariners this afternoon thanks to last night’s thrilling come from behind extra innings win. The team has been scuffling overall the last few weeks but they’ve actually won six of their last nine games and are still somehow atop the AL East. Now they’re getting Tanaka back. Things are looking up. Here is Seattle’s lineup and here is New York’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. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. LF Ramon Flores
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It’s another cool and cloudy day in Seattle, but there’s no rain in the forecast, so the Safeco Field roof should be open. This afternoon’s series finale will begin at 3:40pm ET, and you can watch live on YES. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: If you missed it earlier, David Carpenter was designated for assignment to clear a spot on the roster for Tanaka. I’m pleasantly surprised they didn’t simply send down Jacob Lindgren.

Injury Update: Carlos Beltran is still sore after fouling a pitch off his right foot last night. He can play today in an emergency though. Beltran went for x-rays after the game last night and they showed no fracture.