The Yankees just got done with the Angels, didn’t they? I hate it when two series against the same team are so close together like this. It’s boring, I want to see new players. It happens all the time with other AL East teams but an AL West club? Weird. At least this is the last time these two clubs will play this season unless they somehow meet up in October.
Tonight’s game is all about David Phelps, who is making his first of what figures to be several starts this season. Ivan Nova‘s done for the year and Michael Pineda is several weeks away from returning, so two things need to happen tonight. On a personal level, Phelps has to show he is a better option than Vidal Nuno and the one who should stay in the rotation when Pineda gets healthy. On a team level, Phelps needs to pitch well because the Yankees badly need a win. They’ve been hard to come by lately. Here is the Angels lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- DH Alfonso Soriano
- 3B Kelly Johnson
- 2B Brian Roberts
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
RHP David Phelps
These next three games are in Anaheim and the weather never changes there. There are some clouds but it is mostly sunny and just the right temperature, around 72 degrees or so. I didn’t even bother to look up today’s forecast, that’s all from memory based on my experience there. I’m sure the weather will be fine for the game. First pitch is scheduled for 10:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Try to enjoy.
Brendan Ryan Update: Ryan (back) will be activated tomorrow, according to Joe Girardi. Michael Pineda’s suspension expires and the team gets their 25th roster spot back, so they won’t need to send anyone down.
The strip of River Ave. that runs in front of Yankee Stadium at 161st Street was renamed Rivera Ave. in honor of Mariano Rivera earlier today. We heard this was happening weeks ago. Rivera was there for the unveiling (duh) — there is some video here and here — as were members of his foundation and various community folk. It’s an honorary thing, the street is still River Ave. in an official capacity.
“Between the number of saves he’s had, the number of games he’s finished, but more importantly for the person and character that he is and brings to the community, it was a combination of his success on the field and frankly off the field, and we felt that it deserved some recognition,” said Tom Ferraro, who first petitioned the city to rename the street, to 1010 WINS. Pretty neat. Congrats to Mo. And no, we’re not renaming the site, so stop asking.
Anyway, here is your open thread until the regular game thread comes along later tonight. The Yankees are out on the West Coast and don’t play until 10pm ET. The Mets are playing and ESPN will air the Cardinals and Braves (Miller vs. Harang). There’s also NBA and NHL playoff action on as well, including the (hockey) Rangers. Talk about those games, Rivera Ave., us not renaming the site, or anything else right here.
Luis Ortiz | RHP
Ortiz attends Sanger High School in Fresno and is committed to Fresno State. He helped Team USA win gold at the 18U World Cup in Taiwan last September and was named MVP of the tournament. Ortiz has not pitched much this spring due to a forearm strain and only recently starting throwing side sessions for scouts.
Ortiz stands 6-foot-3 and, depending on who you ask, weighs somewhere between 190-220 pounds. Pretty big difference there. Most listings I’ve seen have him on the higher end of that range. Either way, everyone agrees Ortiz already has three pitches in his low-to-mid-90s fastball, out pitch low-80s slider, and improving mid-80s changeup. He’s also been working on a curveball, reportedly. It’s no doubt starter stuff. Ortiz stands out from the rest of the high school crop because of his pitching know-how and the way he repeats his delivery. He also draws high marks for his work ethic. Ortiz doesn’t offer the kind of physical projection as other prep arms but he’s very advanced and has a chance to be one of those rare high school pitchers who climbs the ladder quickly. The stuff is good, the delivery is good, and the intangibles appear to be good as well.
In his latest ranking, Keith Law (subs. req’d) had Ortiz has the eighth best prospect in the entire draft. That was before the forearm became an issue, however. MLB.com‘s and Baseball America‘s more recent rankings have him as the 33rd and 40th best prospect in the draft, respectively. That’s still ahead of the Yankees first pick (55th overall), but this draft class is said to be very deep in right-handed pitchers. Someone like Ortiz, who has battled an arm injury and hasn’t been seen much this spring, could slide in favor of “safer” arms. Forearm issues are a common precursor to elbow issues and Tommy John surgery, but the Yankees have a small chance of landing a prospect of Ortiz’s caliber with their first selection. If he falls into their lap, they should grab him and hope the arm holds up. There’s too much talent to ignore at that spot of the draft.
The Yankees are out on the West Coast for the first time this season, though they’re only there for three games. They open a three-game series with the Angels tonight before heading to the Midwest. Angel Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Yankees, who have lost each of their last three series and five of their last seven series in Anaheim.
What Have They Done Lately?
Since these clubs met last week, the Angels swept the Indians and lost two of three to the Rangers. They are 15-15 with a +28 run differential overall. That’s actually the second best run differential in the AL. Only four AL teams have a positive run differential this year. April and May are weird.
As you probably remember from last weekend, the Angels can really hit. Their team 115 wRC+ is the best in baseball and their average of 5.30 runs per game is the second best. That’s without OF Josh Hamilton, who suffered a thumb injury (sliding into first base!) about a week into the season and has yet to return. OF Kole Calhoun has an ankle problem and 3B David Freese just had his finger broken by a errant pitch. Those are three pretty important players are none are due back until the end of the month at the earliest.
Manager Mike Scioscia’s lineup is anchored by OF Mike Trout (161 wRC+) and 1B Albert Pujols (160 wRC+), both of whom are just tearing the cover off the ball. Trout does everything and while Pujols doesn’t hit for average or get on base like he did a few years, his ten homers are the second most in the league. 2B Howie Kendrick (130 wRC+) always kills the Yankees and SS Erick Aybar (106 wRC+) is having a nice year. He always seems to be annoying.
With Freese hurt, 3B Ian Stewart (90 wRC+) has taken over at the hot corner full-time. The catching platoon of C Chris Iannetta (122 wRC+) and C Hank Conger (147 wRC+) has been very productive. OF Raul Ibanez (45 wRC+) and OF Collin Cowgill (160 wRC+ in limited time) are stuck playing the outfield regularly with Hamilton and Calhoun hurt. UTIL Grant Green (6 PA), IF Luis Jimenez (4 PA), and IF John McDonald (16 PA) fill out the bench. Top prospect 1B/DH C.J. Cron has five hits in two games since coming up to replace Freese.
Monday: RHP David Phelps (vs. LAA) vs. RHP Jered Weaver (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Weaver, 31, has always been an unconventional ace because he’s a kitchen sink guy, not a power pitcher. He’s off to an alright start (4.00 ERA and 4.83 FIP) in six starts and 36 innings so far, with just okay strikeout (7.00 K/9 and 18.8 K%) and walk (3.00 BB/9 and 8.1 BB%) rates. Weaver has given up an inordinate number of homers (1.50 HR/9 and 11.3 HR/FB%) so far in 2014. He doesn’t get grounders (35.3%). Never has and never will. He’s always been a high pop-up rate/weak contact guy that defies the usual ERA/FIP relationship. Lefties (.327 wOBA) are hitting him harder than righties (.290 wOBA). Weaver throws four pitches and he throws them almost interchangeably: mid-80s fastballs, low-80s slider, upper-70s changeup, and low-70s curveball. Yes, his fastball sits in the mid-80s. He cuts and sinks it on occasion too. The Yankees didn’t see Weaver during their series with the Angels last weekend.
Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. LAA) vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Wilson, 33, has gotten better and better in each of his three seasons with the Halos. He’s pitching to a 3.18 ERA (3.43 FIP) in six starts and 39.2 innings this year thanks to stellar strikeout (9.30 K/9 and 26.1 K%) and ground ball (50.0 K%) rates. His walk rate is good (2.95 BB/9 and 8.3 BB%) and his homer rate (0.91 HR/9 and 11.8 HR/FB%) is fine. Lefties (.252 wOBA) haven’t have much luck against him, but neither have righties (.297 wOBA). Wilson throws five pitches — low-90s fastball, upper-80s cutter, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, upper-70s curveball — and he uses all of them a lot, so it’s a bunch of different looks. He held the Yankees to one run in six innings last weekend.
Wednesday: LHP Vidal Nuno (vs. LAA) vs. LHP Hector Santiago (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
This is a rematch of last Saturday’s game. The 26-year-old Newark native is off to a rough start (5.01 ERA and 4.99 FIP) even though he’s missing bats (7.79 K/9 and 19.7 K%). He walks too many (4.18 BB/9 and 10.6 BB%), doesn’t get grounders (30.2%), and gives up homers (1.39 HR/9 and 10.2 HR/FB%), which isn’t any way to live. Santiago doesn’t have a platoon split even though he’s a two fastball (low-90s four and two-seamer), one changeup (low-80s) pitcher. He will mix in the occasional mid-70s screwball but that’s really it. Three and a half pitches, basically. The Yankees roughed Santiago up for four runs in 4.1 innings in their previous series.
Scioscia’s bullpen hasn’t been very good this season — 19th in ERA (4.07) and 26th in FIP (4.46) — and he’s already replaced RHP Ernesto Frieri (7.11 FIP) with RHP Joe Smith (2.29 FIP) at closer. LHP Nick Maronde (4.24 FIP) is the only lefty and both RHP Michael Kohn (3.64 FIP) and RHP Kevin Jepsen (4.28 FIP) tend to see the higher leverage work.
Right now, the rest of the relief unit includes RHP Fernando Salas (4.45 FIP) and RHP Michael Morin (1.77 FIP in very limited time). Kohn, Jepsen, Maronde, Morin, and Salas all pitched in yesterday’s blowout loss, and after the game Scioscia hinted that a fresh arm or two could be called up before tonight’s game. There’s no word on those moves just yet. Al Aceves will be unavailable for a few days following yesterday’s long relief outing, but otherwise the Yankees’ key relievers are rested. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for details and Halos Daily for the latest and greatest on the Angels.
I’ve been at this for a little while now, and one thing I’ve learned over the years is that there is a friggin’ ton of bad information out there. The bad information outnumbers the good information by like, a factor of a hundred at this point. It’s terrible. Sorting through the nonsense is exhausting. It really is. What are you going to do though? It’s all in the game.
International players in particular fall victim to bad information because there isn’t much information out there to begin with. Even in this age of the internet and the 24-hour news cycle, we still don’t know a whole lot about non-MLB players. The tiny little bit of information we have gets extrapolated out and before you know it, Yoenis Cespedes is a five-tool superstar when he’s more like a solid, two-tool everyday outfielder. It happens all the time.
To date, I don’t think we’ve seen anything out of Masahiro Tanaka that we didn’t hear about in the weeks and months leading up to his free agency. Actually, I guess I should say we haven’t seen Tanaka not do something he was said to be able to do in the weeks and months leading up to free agency. That make sense? We’re not waiting to see the gyroball or anything like that. Tanaka has been as advertised.
One thing that stood out to me before the Yankees signed Tanaka was this statement by Darrell Rasner, the former Yankee who was Tanaka’s teammate with the Rakuten Golden Eagles the last few years. Here’s what Rasner told Sweeny Murti back in January:
SM: When you say he has an extra gear, you mean an extra 3 or 4 miles per hour to get somebody out?
DR: I’m talking like an extra 10! I watch him pitch at 88-89 or 90-91, and then I’ll see him jump up to 98-99 when he needs it. I saw him do this (last) year, and there was one game that really stands out to me. I wanna say it was the eighth or ninth inning and he was 140 pitches in and he needed a strikeout, and he jumped it from that 90 to about 98-99 and punched the guy out. It’s just impressive watching the guy, his mentality and his know-how on pitching, especially being so young.
This sounds like a something that could be totally made up, right? We hear about guys cranking it up a notch in big situations quite a bit but it seems like few actually do it.
Anecdotally, I feel like I have seen Tanaka reach back and bring something extra in important spots during his first six starts, but this is 2014. Anecdotal evidence is for suckers. We can test this stuff. First, let’s keep it simple and look at Tanaka’s results. Here is how he’s fared in situations with varying degrees of pressure:
First things first: take a second to soak in those numbers with runners in scoring position. Hitters had an 0-for-17 stretch against Tanaka in those spots until Ryan Hanigan slapped a ground ball off Kelly Johnson‘s glove on Saturday. When it comes to runners in scoring position, Tanaka is the Yankees’ offense of pitchers. I don’t even care that the performance came in a super small sample — the reason I didn’t use low/medium/high-leverage stats instead is because Tanaka has faced only nine batters in high-leverage spots — it happened and it’s amazing.
Anyway, Tanaka has performed much better with runners on base than he has with the bases empty to date. That isn’t proof that he kicks it into another gear in big spots, but it does support the theory. At least somewhat. Obviously Tanaka isn’t going to sustain a 53.1% strikeout rate and a 75.0% ground ball rate with men in scoring position (lol) because no one does that. I would expect him to be less effective in those spots going forward only because he couldn’t possibly be any better.
The results have been excellent, but when I think of a pitcher reaching back for something extra in big spots, I think of increased velocity. That’s what everything thinks, right? Rasner’s claim that Tanaka can reach back for “an extra 10!” is completely far-fetched — if a pitcher could really do that, he’s probably doing his team and himself a disservice by not doing it more often — but the idea that he throws harder when he really needs an out is not. There are a few guys around the league who can do it, with Justin Verlander jumping to mind.
Courtesy of the amazing Baseball Savant, here is Tanaka’s pitch selection and average velocities in those same three situations:
Those percentages do not add up to 100% simply because Tanaka throws too many different pitches and I didn’t include them all. PitchFX has recorded eight different pitches from Tanaka this season, though the four-seamer, sinker, splitter, and slider are his four main offerings. The others (cutter, two-seamer, changeup, curve) aren’t used nearly as often, so I’m leaving them out. It’s just too much information.
Across the board we see that Tanaka has indeed thrown harder with guys on base, especially when they’re in scoring position. The increase in the average velocity of his four-seamer, sinker, and splitter is roughly one mile an hour with men in scoring position while the slider jumps two full miles an hour. The increases with men on base in general are smaller but they still exist, especially with the fastball and slider. The average fastball velocity increase with men on base is only 0.2 mph across the league. It’s 0.4 mph with runners in scoring position. Tanaka’s fastball has jumped +0.8 mph with men on and +1.2 mph with men in scoring position. The other pitches have shown even smaller velocity increases around the league, so Tanaka is very much unique.
Tanaka has thrown ten pitches at 94+ mph this year and eight have come with men on base. The two exceptions were a pair of 2-2 fastballs to Brock Holt (95.2 mph) and Grady Sizemore (94.7 mph). Both were fouled off and they were Tanaka’s fastest and fourth fastest pitches of the season, respectively. Here’s the fun part: the pitch to Holt was in the seventh inning (96th pitch), the pitch to Sizemore in the eighth (103rd). Tanaka was really amped up in Boston — ten of his 12 fastest pitches of the season came against the Red Sox — and he was throwing his hardest when his pitch count was approaching or over 100. That qualifies as a guy who ramps it up in big spots to me.
Through his first six starts, Tanaka has shown signs of having that “extra gear” we heard so much about before he joined the Yankees. It is just six starts though, his first six in the big leagues. He admitted to being excited and nervous before both his first overall start and first home start, and I’m sure he felt a little something before his other four starts as well. If Tanaka continues to reach back for more in big situations later in the season, after he has some more innings under is belt and has had more time to adjust to the five-man rotation, then I think we’ll know this is a skill he actually possesses and not just a piece of bad misinformation we heard before Tanaka came over to MLB.
Record Last Week: 1-4 (20 RS, 28 RA)
Season Record: 16-14 (127 RS, 143 RA, 13-17 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: @ Angels (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF, @ Brewers (three games, Sat. to Sun.)
Top stories from last week:
- The week started with an off-day, then Robinson Cano returned to New York with his Mariners teammates for a three-game series. Seattle won the series opener but Wednesday’s game was rained out. It will be made up on June 2nd. The Mariners won Thursday’s game to complete the two-game sweep.
- The Rays came to town for a three-game weekend series. Tampa took the opener in 14 ridiculous innings, but the Yankees rebounded with a come from behind win on Saturday. The Rays roughed up CC Sabathia yesterday.
- Injury Updates: Michael Pineda (back) will be out 3-4 weeks with a Grade I strain. Jacoby Ellsbury (hand) missed one game with soreness but has since returned to the lineup. Brendan Ryan (back) could rejoin the team very soon, perhaps as soon as today. Greg Bird (back), Slade Heathcott (knee), and Jose Ramirez (oblique) are all close to returning while Luis Torrens (shoulder) is still about a month away.
- The Yankees had “strong interest” in Joel Hanrahan, but he signed with the Tigers. The club is also said to have interest in Cuban outfielder Daniel Carbonell, but not Scott Baker.
- Chris Leroux was designated for assignment and Al Aceves was called up in a corresponding move.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
What a frustrating series. The Yankees got the hits, but didn’t plate the runners – 4 for 33 with runners in scoring position.
Jay and I run down the gruesome details in the most upbeat manner possible.
Then Sam Miller, an editor at Baseball Prospectus, joins us to talk about the upcoming Angels series. Sam covered the Angels for the Orange County Register for a few years. You’ll learn a bit listening to him.
iTunes link: subscribe here
Or you can subscribe to the RSS feed.
If you’re on Android, the feed should be updating in major podcast apps. (I know it has shown up in BeyondPod for me.)
Here are some spare notes, including some roster moves:
- According to VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman, 1B Greg Bird (back), OF Slade Heathcott (knee), and RHP Jose Ramirez (oblique) are “close” to returning but C Luis Torrens (shoulder) will be out “a month or so.” These are Newman timelines though, so they mean close to nothing. [Josh Norris]
- LHP Tyler Webb has been promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton. To clear a spot on the roster, LHP Charley Short was released. LHP Miguel Sulbaran replaces Webb on the Tampa roster. He came over in the Eduardo Nunez trade. [Kyle Franko, Nicholas Flammia]
Triple-A Scranton (16-2 beatdown of Norfolk) they clobbered RHP Suk-Min Yoon (eight runs in three innings), whose name we heard a bunch of times this past offseason
- RF Ramon Flores: 2-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K – 24-for-72 (.333) with seven doubles, one triple, and two homers in his last 18 games
- SS Dean Anna: 3-5, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 1 BB — had exactly one hit in each of his last five games
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB — 12-for-36 (.333) with four doubles and three homers in his last eight games
- DH Adonis Garcia: 2-5, 2 R, 1 K
- C Austin Romine: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
- RHP Joel De La Cruz: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 12/0 GB/FB — 53 of 84 pitches were strikes (63%) … very nice Triple-A debut for the guy Brian Cashman reportedly tried to send to the Cubs for Alfonso Soriano instead of Corey Black
That was not a fun homestand. Between the five losses in eight games and at times lethargic play, the Yankees looked as bad as they’ve look at any point in this young season. Worse than they did in the two losses to the Astros back in early April. The rotation is a real problem and so are Derek Jeter and Carlos Beltran. They just aren’t hitting and they’re occupying prime lineup spots. That’s a good way to stifle an offense. The season is young and there is a lot of time to fix this stuff, but it’s ugly right now. The long reliever being the highlight of the game is no good.
Here is your open thread for the night. The Cardinals and Cubs are the ESPN Sunday Night Game (Lynn vs. Hammel), plus the (hockey) Rangers are playing the second game of their second round playoff series against the Penguins. Talk about either of those games, this afternoon’s loss, or anything else right here.
That was no way to close out a homestand. The Yankees lost Sunday’s rubber match to the Rays by the score of 5-1 and frankly it didn’t feel like the game was even that close. The four-run deficit might as well have been 14 runs. Yuck. Let’s recap the team’s fourth loss in the last five days:
- CCrushed: CC Sabathia had his worst start of the season on Sunday and that’s really saying something. The Rays tagged him for five runs on ten hits (five for extra bases) in only 3.2 innings, his shortest start since going only 2.2 innings in Game 160 back in 2009. His defense didn’t help him any — Carlos Beltran embarrassingly never bothered to back up Jacoby Ellsbury on Wil Myers’ inside-the-park three-run homer, which bounced off the wall and rolled for days — but that really doesn’t matter. Sabathia was awful and the Rays smacked him all over the yard. Terrible.
- NOffense: Of course, Sabathia could have twirled a gem and it wouldn’t have mattered. The Yankees scored one run against Erik Bedard & Co. and were in “we have to fly out to the West Coast after this” mode by the sixth inning. Their best opportunities to get back into the game came in the fifth and seventh innings, when the first two batters reached base but the next three made outs. Both times. Didn’t even hit the ball hard once after the first two guys reached.
- Mexican Gangster Returns: The short start by Sabathia meant the Yankees re-debut for Al Aceves, who chucked 5.1 innings of shutout ball. He allowed only three hits, struck out five, and retired the final 12 men he faced. Aceves had some kind of knee problem in the fifth inning but remained in the game after being looked at by the trainer and throwing some test pitches. For at least one day, 2009 Al Aceves returned. He was the only bright spot on Sunday.
- Leftovers: Derek Jeter and Beltran went a combined 0-for-8 on the day and are 19-for-97 (.196) over the last two weeks. Bedard and Jake McGee threw fastballs by the Cap’n all afternoon. Straight up killing the offense … the Yankees drew two walks and now have only 17 walks in their last seven games (6.2%). That’s not nearly enough … Brett Gardner had two more hits and quietly went 10-for-25 (.400) on the homestand … Yangervis Solarte drove in the only run with a sac fly.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some additional stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees are off to the West Coast for a three-game series against the Angels, who they just played in the Bronx last weekend. David Phelps will make his first start of the season in Monday’s season opener and will be opposed by Jered Weaver.