Starlin’s Power-Fueled, Moderate Bounceback

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

If any one player on the Yankees encapsulates the frustration that is baseball, it’s Starlin Castro at the plate. Like the game itself, Castro’s time at the plate can be endlessly joyful or maddeningly frustrating. But also like baseball itself, the truth with Castro falls somewhere in the middle. Is he as bad as his Alfonso Soriano-reminiscent at-bats of chasing anything breaking? Probably not. Is he as good as he was his first week in pinstripes? Probably not. As a whole picture, though, it’s hard to argue that Castro is a prettier one to look at than the last two years of the likes of Jayson Nix and Stephen Drew.

2016 has been a modest recovery type year for Castro, after being abysmal in 2015 (and 2013, with a good year sandwiched in between). While a 96 wRC+ isn’t anything to throw a parade over, it’s a big upgrade for him over the mark of 80 that he had last year. He’s also set career highs with 20 homers and a .166 ISO. Starlin’s .273 batting average represents a jump of only eight points from 2015’s mark and his jump in OBP–from .296 to .304–is equally small. The real bump for this slight bounceback (which may be ending soon thanks to yesterday) comes from his power. His ISO has jumped .056, leading to a .064 jump in slugging to .439, a career high by one point over 2014’s number of .438.

As we might expect with a power surge, the increase is coming on Castro’s results from fly balls and line drives, the types of batted balls that tend to go for extra bases. On fly balls and line drives, Castro is hitting .441 with an .842 SLG, a .525 wOBA, and a 239 wRC+. Again, this is self-evident; he should be hitting for power on these batted ball types. What intrigued me about these numbers, though, is that they represent increases over 2014, his last good season. His ISO on FB + LD in 2014 was .309, which is much lower than the .401 mark he’s put up this year.

2014 and 2016 look pretty similar in terms of batted ball percentages for Castro, with one slight difference that helps explain the uptick in ISO. This year, Castro’s FB% has dipped slightly from the 2014 mark, but his HR/FB% has seen an uptick; he’s hitting fewer fly balls, but more of them are leaving the field than in a previous productive season.

(USA TODAY Sports)
(USA TODAY Sports)

Back in 2014, Castro generated power only from the inner part of the zone. That seems to have changed in 2016. We can see a lot more power coming from out over the middle and even on the outer half (up and away and middle out, both in the zone).

Maybe it’s something in the way he’s swinging or making contact, maybe it’s just the randomness that is baseball at times, but Castro is hitting with power he hasn’t quite seen before. He’s an up-and-down player, it would seem, and now he’s on an upswing. Can he carry that into 2017? Hopefully.

Yankees continue to fall apart, drop Saturday’s game 6-5 to Red Sox

Source: FanGraphs

It would be more depressing if it weren’t so predictable. Saturday afternoon the Yankees blew a three-run lead for the second time in three days, sending them to their fourth straight loss and sixth in the last seven games. In the most important stretch of the season, they’ve folded like a lawn chair. Saturday’s final score was 6-5 Red Sox. It’s Saturday, so let’s recap with bullet points.

  • An Early Lead: Well, if nothing else, at least we know the Yankees have David Price’s number. They hung a five-spot on him Saturday thanks to a two-run home run by Gary Sanchez and a two-run double by Austin Romine. The Sanchez homer was mighty impressive. Price gave him a fastball down and in and Sanchez hooked it over the Green Monster. Pretty cool. The Yankees scored those five runs on nine hits in six innings against Price.
  • Another Short Start: Man, Bryan Mitchell was one pitch away from a really nice start. It could have been two runs in five innings, but instead it goes in the books as four runs in 4.2 innings. For shame. Xander Bogaerts hit Mitchell’s final pitch over the Monster for a two-run home run to cut New York’s lead to 5-4. Mitchell missed his spot by the full width of the plate, but still, Bogaerts somehow managed to keep this …bogaerts

    … fair for a home run. Not even mad. I’m impressed. Sanchez is the only player on the Yankees who could hit that pitch out of the park. Maybe Starlin Castro. That’s it. Mitchell allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and a walk in his 4.2 innings. He fanned three. Good start, bad finish.

  • The Latest Bullpen Meltdown: It really felt like only a matter of time until the bullpen blew the lead, didn’t it? Five of the nine batters Luis Severino faced reached base, and one of the outs was a bunt. He was charged with the tying run after allowing a double to Bogaerts, then Mookie Betts hit a chopper over Didi Gregorius‘ head against Adam Warren. The winning run scored on a wild pitch. Runner on third with one out is a Tyler Clippard situation because he’s a strikeout/pop-up pitcher. It wasn’t his assigned inning though. Alas. So in came Warren and his put the ball in play approach. Shocked it backfired. Shocked, I tell you.
  • No Late Offense: None one of the final 13 Yankees to bat hit the ball out of the infield. Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk in the seventh and was thrown out stealing second for some stupid reason. Just let Sanchez hit with a man on base. First base is already scoring position with him. Romine was stranded at third after his double against Price too. Rob Refsnyder struck out with a man on third and one out for the fourth time in his last three games. Brutal.
  • Leftovers: Both Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) and Castro (hamstring) left the game hurt and there’s a decent chance their seasons are over. Both are going back to New York for tests … Gregorius and Romine were the only Yankees with multiple hits. Romine was allowed to hit for himself against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth even though Brian McCann was available to pinch-hit … Refsnyder went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts overall … New York’s postseason odds have nosedived from 18.2% to 2.2% in seven days, per FanGraphs.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Assuming either the Orioles or Blue Jays win tonight, the Yankees will be five games back of the second wildcard spot with 14 games to play. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. CC Sabathia and Drew Pomeranz will be on the mound in the series finale Sunday. That’s the ESPN Sunday Night Game. ESPN still thinks the Yankees are relevant, apparently.

Saturday Open Thread

Here’s an open thread for the rest of the day. The Tigers and Indians are on FOX Sports 1 right now, the Mets are playing later, and MLB Network will carry a regional game tonight too. Plus there’s plenty of college football going on and some World Cup of Hockey too. Talk about those games or whatever else right here.

Jacoby Ellsbury leaves game with right knee injury


Jacoby Ellsbury left this afternoon’s game with a right knee injury, the Yankees announced. He hurt himself crashing into the wall trying to make a catch in the seventh inning. Ellsbury stayed in initially, but he was removed after the inning. He’s heading for tests. Here’s the play:

At this point even a minor injury could end Ellsbury’s season. The Yankees are already without Aaron Hicks (hamstring) and Aaron Judge (quad), so they’re running short on outfielders. They could end up with Mason Williams in center and Rob Refsnyder in right full-time the rest of the way.

The Yankees lost Starlin Castro to a hamstring injury earlier in the game, so they lost two regulars in the span of four innings or so. That would hurt more if the team hadn’t bombed out of the postseason race this week. The exact nature of Ellsbury’s injury is unknown, but we’ll find out soon enough.

Update: Starlin Castro leaves game with hamstring strain

(Photo: AP)
(Photo: AP)

4:54pm: After the game, Joe Girardi told reporters Castro felt a “pop” in his hamstring, which is never good. He’s going to return to New York for tests.

3:51pm: Castro does indeed have a right hamstring strain, the Yankees announced. He’s heading for further tests. Here’s the play:

3:01pm: Starlin Castro left this afternoon’s game with an apparent right hamstring injury. He ripped a double into the gap in the fifth inning, then pulled up lame between first and second. Castro grabbed at his hamstring, so there’s no doubt that’s what’s aching. He was removed from the game immediately. Didn’t even lobby to stay in.

Ronald Torreyes came in to replace Starlin on the bases, and he and Rob Refsnyder would be the obvious candidates to take over at second. It’s worth noting veteran utility infielder Donovan Solano had a tremendous season in Triple-A, and with Scranton’s season over, he could be a short-term option. Creating 40-man roster space wouldn’t be tough.

The Yankees have not yet released an update by Castro, so stay tuned. This one seems like standard “hamstring strain and heading for an MRI” stuff. We’ll see. At this point, even a minor strain could end Castro’s season. That sucks.

Game 148: Crunch Time

(Maddie Meyer/Getty)
(Maddie Meyer/Getty)

So the last two days haven’t gone too well. The last six days, really. The Yankees have lost five of their last six games and pretty much every flaw has been exposed. Bad offense, little rotation depth, worn out bullpen, you name it. The Yankees are still mathematically alive in the postseason race, but it’s getting down to “they need to win out to get in” time. Not good. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Gary Sanchez
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. 1B Billy Butler
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. RF Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Bryan Mitchell

It’s sunny and clear in Boston this afternoon. A good day for postseason dreams to die. Today’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on FOX. Good ol’ FOX. Try to enjoy.

Saturday Links: Mateo, Instructs, Gurriel, Refsnyder


The Yankees and Red Sox will continue their four-game series with the third game later this afternoon. Here are some bits of news and notes to hold you over.

Mateo among Law’s most disappointing prospects

After blazing start to the season with High-A Tampa, shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo hit a wall in June and never really recovered. He finished the year with a thoroughly disappointing .254/.306/.379 (99 wRC+) batting line despite setting a new career high with eight homers. Mateo went 36-for-51 (71%) in steal attempts one year after going 82-for-99 (83%).

It’s no surprise then that Mateo is one of eight top 100 prospects who took a step back this season, according to Keith Law (subs. req’d). “Getting suspended for two weeks for an unspecified violation of team rules was just the tip of the iceberg … multiple scouts have told me they haven’t seen Mateo make anywhere near enough hard contact,” said his write-up. “(The Yankees) seem to have soured a little on his makeup and have clearly superior shortstop options elsewhere in the system.”

The Yankees were ready to trade Mateo to the Padres for Craig Kimbrel at the trade deadline last year and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them shop him for pitching this offseason. They have a ton of shortstops in the farm system, including the superior Gleyber Torres, and Mateo still has enough top prospect shine to headline a package for a quality young pitcher. Right now I think there’s better than a 50/50 chance Mateo is traded this winter. We’ll see.

Instructional League roster released

Earlier this week Baseball America (no subs. req’d) posted the Yankees’ Instructional League roster. Instructs start later this month and run through mid-November. The roster looks the same as always. Some top prospects but mostly recent draftees and international signees, and players who missed time to injury. Blake Rutherford is apparently healthy enough for Instructs after missing the end of the season with a hamstring injury, so that’s cool.

Yesterday we heard James Kaprielian faced hitters for the first time since being shut down with an elbow injury way back in April. He’s not on the Instructional League roster but could always be added and get some innings there. The Yankees want Kaprielian to pitch in the Arizona Fall League and Instructs would be a natural stepping stone. Also, Greg Bird will face living pitching in Instructional League for the first time since shoulder surgery. He’s not on the roster but that might have to do with the fact he’s technically a rehabbing big leaguer, not a minor leaguer.

Gurriel holds showcase for MLB teams

Cuban infield prospect Lourdes Gurriel Jr. held a workout for teams earlier this week in Panama City, reports Jesse Sanchez. There were 60 scouts in attendance and Gurriel did the usual: fielded ground balls, shagged fly balls, took batting practice, ran sprints, that sort of stuff. “I have been waiting for this moment and now it became a reality. This was my first step to the big leagues, God willing. I’m grateful for everyone who helped me get to this point,” he said.

Sanchez said scouts were impressed by Gurriel’s arm and physicality, though the consensus is he needs more at-bats against live pitching. I mean, duh. He hasn’t played in a competitive game in almost a year now. The expectation has always been that Gurriel will need to spend some time in the minors before helping a big league team, the same way his brother did. Yulieski, by the way, has hit .329/.350/.500 (129 wRC+) with three homers in his first 22 games with the Astros, so that’s going well.

Lourdes is not Yoan Moncada, but he’s pretty darn good. He’s working out for teams now even though he won’t sign until he turns 23 next month. Once he turns 23 he will no longer be subject to the league’s international spending restrictions, so teams can pay him whatever they want. The Yankees haven’t signed a big name Cuban player in a long time, not since Jose Contreras, so I really have no reason to think they’ll sign Gurriel. Maybe they’ll surprise me.

Refsnyder nominated for Marvin Miller award

Rob Refsnyder is the Yankees’ nominee for this year’s Marvin Miller Man of the Year award, the MLBPA announced earlier this week. The award is given annually to the player “whose on-field performance and contributions to his community inspire others to higher levels of achievement.” Fans can vote to select one finalist from each division. Here’s the ballot.

Refsnyder, who was born in South Korea and adopted by a family in California when he was three months old, has been helping raise money for a charity called A Kid’s Place, which helps Tampa area children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. Refsnyder designed and is selling a t-shirt through Athletes Brand, with all the proceeds this month going to the charity. Pretty awesome. Well done, Ref.