The schedule gods were kind to the Yankees this year. This is their final trip out to the West Coast and it only lasts six days. Not too bad. The Yankees are in Seattle to open a three-game set against Robinson Cano and the Mariners tonight. Seattle won all three games at Yankee Stadium earlier this season, one of which was postponed a few weeks by rain.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Mariners are coming in very hot. They’ve won eight of their last nine games (including the makeup game in the Bronx) and just took three of four from the oh so terrible Rays in Tampa. At 34-29 with a +34 run differential, the Mariners currently sit in the second wildcard spot, 2.5 games up on New York.
Manager Lloyd McClendon’s team has an 85 wRC+ and averages 4.16 runs per game, so they’re below-average offensively. They’re banged up too. 1B Logan Morrison (8 wRC+) and DH Corey Hart (82 wRC+) are on the disabled list and both 1B Justin Smoak (79 wRC+) and OF Michael Saunders (112 wRC+) are day-to-day with quad and shoulder problems, respectively. Smoak has been used as a defensive replacement the last few days but hasn’t been able to do much more than that.
As expected, Cano (120 wRC+) has been the team’s best hitter this year, though his power output (two homers and .090 ISO) is way down. 3B Kyle Seager (118 wRC+) has been very good while Brooklyn-born OF James Jones (99 wRC+) has been league average. He grew up in the Ebbets Field apartments. Pretty cool, no? OF Cole Gillespie (121 wRC+ in limited time) has been a useful part-timer, but otherwise the Mariners don’t have anyone who has been even an average hitter this season.
OF Dustin Ackley (81 wRC+) and C Mike Zunino (84 wRC+) are disappointments, but at least Zunino has the whole “young catcher in MLB” excuse to fall back on. SS Brad Miller (47 wRC+) has been awful, Ditto OF Stefen Romero (69 wRC+), OF Endy Chavez (65 wRC+ in limited time), and backup C John Buck (84 wRC+ in limited time). UTIL Willie Bloomquist (72 wRC+) has been playing first base with Smoak banged up. Cano and Seager are the two guys the Yankees can’t let beat them.
Tuesday: LHP Vidal Nuno (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (vs. NYY)
Iwakuma, 33, was on the disabled list with a finger injury when these two clubs first played. Masahiro Tanaka‘s former teammate with the Rakuten Golden Eagles has a 2.66 ERA (3.44 FIP) in seven starts and 50.2 innings this year. Last year, when he finished third in the AL Cy Young voting, Iwakuma had a … 2.66 ERA and 3.44 FIP. Freaky. His strikeout (6.39 K/9 and 19.2 K%) and walk (0.71 BB/9 and 2.1 BB%) rates are both down a bit from last year while his ground ball rate (55.8%) has jumped a notch. Iwakuma’s homer rate (1.07 HR/9 and 15.8 HR/FB%) is about the same and lefties (.313 wOBA) had hit him much harder than righties (.228 wOBA). Like Tanaka, Iwakuma’s out pitch is a mid-80s splitter, though his upper-80s four-seamer and sinker lag behind his ex-teammate. A slow low-80s slider is his other offspeed pitch.
Wednesday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. SEA) vs. RHP Chris Young (vs. NYY)
The Mariners have struck scrap heap gold with Young, who has a 3.42 ERA (5.38 FIP) in eleven starts (and one relief appearance) and 68.1 innings. Safeco Field has been perfect for his extreme fly ball (25.8% grounders) ways, as he’s been much more effective at home (.230 wOBA) than on the road (.269 wOBA). He doesn’t have a platoon split, doesn’t miss bats (4.35 K/9 and 11.6 K%), doesn’t limit walks (3.95 BB/9 and 10.6 BB%), and doesn’t keep the ball in the park (1.32 HR/9 and 8.0 HR/FB%). And yet, it works for him. Baseball is so weird. Young is a pure two-pitch pitcher these days, throwing a mid-80s fastball about 75% of the time and filling in the gaps with upper-70s sliders. He survives because of his funky delivery, which hides the ball very well. Young held the Yankees to two runs (one earned) in 5.2 innings back in April.
Thursday: RHP Chase Whitley (No vs. SEA) vs. LHP Roenis Elias (vs. NYY)
Due to injuries, the 25-year-old Elias jumped straight from Double-A to MLB this season, and he has a 3.64 ERA (4.01 FIP) in 13 starts and 81.2 innings so far. Not bad for an unheralded Cuban signee. Elias has good but unspectacular peripherals across the board — 7.71 K/9 (20.8 K%), 3.20 BB/9 (8.7 BB%), 0.99 HR/9 (11.8 HR/FB%), and 46.3% grounders — and he has small home/road and left/right splits. Elias uses a low-90s fastball to set up his mid-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball, both of which are quality offerings. The Yankees won’t have to face Felix Hernandez this series, but Elias did strike out a career-high ten while allowing two runs in seven innings in the Bronx a few weeks ago.
The Mariners made the long flight from Tampa to Seattle yesterday, and their bullpen has worked quite a bit of late. Closer RHP Fernando Rodney (2.72 FIP) has pitched in two of the last three days and four of the last seven. Setup man RHP Danny Farquhar (2.70 FIP) threw two innings yesterday and RHP Dominic Leone (2.85 FIP) has pitched in back-to-back games.
The rest of the bullpen includes RHP Yoervis Medina (4.04 FIP), RHP Tom Wilhelmsen (4.06 FIP), LHP Joe Beimel (3.08 FIP), and LHP Charlie Furbush (3.66 FIP). There isn’t a true long man in the bunch, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just unusual. The Yankees were rained out yesterday, so their bullpen is rested. Check out our Bullpen Workload page anyway. For the latest and greatest on the Mariners, head over USS Mariner and Lookout Landing.
Both Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui will make their Old Timers’ Day debuts later this month, the Yankees announced. That’s going to be a lot of fun. Former right-hander John Montefusco will make his Old Timers’ debut as well. The full roster of Old Timers can be seen right here. The usual cast of characters will be there.
Old Timer’s Day is June 22nd this year, so not this coming Sunday, the following Sunday. The Yankees will be unveiling the second of four new Monument Park plaques that day, this one in honor of Goose Gossage. Tino Martinez’s plaque will be unveiled one day earlier. Plaques for Paul O’Neill and Joe Torre are coming later this summer. Torre is having his number retired as well. · (44) ·
The Yankees were able to get to Seattle a few hours early last night thanks to the rainout in Kansas City. I’m not gonna lie, getting a night away from the struggling offense was pretty nice. It can get mighty frustrating when you have to watch it game after game. Here are some miscellaneous thoughts a few hours before the series opener against the Mariners.
1. The Diamondbacks surprisingly designated Trevor Cahill for assignment yesterday, and I say surprisingly because there is still roughly $18M (!) left on his contract through next year. Teams are usually reluctant to eat that kind of money, but bravo to Arizona for recognizing a sunk cost and being willing to improve their team. Cahill is only 26 and he was good as recently as last year (3.99 ERA and 4.26 FIP in 146.2 innings), so someone will surely give him a job once he clears waivers and becomes available for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum. The Yankees should be looking to replace Vidal Nuno, though it’s worth noting Cahill lives and dies by the ground ball. (He had a 17.1% strikeout rate and a 57.8% ground ball rate from 2011-13.) As you’ve surely noticed, ground balls and the Yankees’ infield do not mix well. That said, he’s almost certainly better than Wade LeBlanc — Cahill had a 3.04 ERA (2.87 FIP) with 26.5% strikeout rate and a 47.5% ground ball rate in 23.2 relief innings for the D-Backs after being demoted to the bullpen a few weeks ago — and if the Bombers can convince him to come to New York, they should do it. Pitchers usually don’t come to the AL East and Yankee Stadium to rebuild value unless it’s a last resort though. (For what it’s worth, Nick Piecoro says GM Kevin Towers made it sound like Cahill agreed to go to the minors when he clears waivers.)
2. Shawn Kelley‘s second rehab game went fine last night by all accounts, so he is expected to be activated off the 15-day DL in time for tomorrow’s game. I assume either Matt Daley or Jose Ramirez will be sent to Triple-A Scranton to clear a roster spot. Doesn’t really matter either way. The important thing is that the back-end of the bullpen is getting some much needed help, so Joe Girardi will be able to take it a bit easier on Dellin Betances and Adam Warren in front of David Robertson. We’re in mid-June now and Betances and Warren are still on pace for 94 and 89 innings this season, respectively, and it seems like all that work has started to catch up to them of late. Girardi has already indicated he won’t necessarily stick Kelley in the eighth inning right away — did you realize he’s been out for a month already? time flies — which makes sense. I love Betances in his current fireman role and both Kelley and Warren seem to be at their best when they start an inning clean and only throw exactly one inning. The bullpen’s about to get a pretty big boost and it is definitely needed right now.
3. Speaking of bullpens, just about every reliever I wanted the Yankees to sign this past offseason has flopped, namely Jose Veras, Grant Balfour, and Brian Wilson. Others like Eric O’Flaherty, Joel Hanrahan, and Jesse Crain have yet to pitch this year. Boone Logan has been on the disabled list twice and Joe Nathan has completely melted down for the Tigers. Like, spectacularly. The only two free agent relievers who signed biggish contracts and have been good so far this season are Joaquin Benoit and Joe Smith. I thought the Yankees needed to sign a pretty good reliever this winter after losing Mariano Rivera to retirement, but instead Betances has stepped up to fill the void. The Yankees replaced an elite reliever with another elite reliever from within. Obviously Betances is not Mo, he’s got a long way to go before being mentioned in the same breath as Rivera, but the relief crew hasn’t missed a beat this year. It’s been pretty impressive to watch. Every year Girardi & Co. seem to unearth a new weapon.
4. You’ve probably seen it by now, but if not, Manny Machado had a little meltdown against the Athletics this weekend. Two meltdowns, really. First he got in Josh Donaldson’s face because he felt he was tagged too hard (really?), then he threw his bat at … someone on the other team. It looked like he tried to throw it at the pitcher but it wound up going towards the third baseman, who was not Donaldson at the time. Here’s the video of the tag play and here’s the video of the bat throwing. The Orioles threw up and in at Donaldson twice in the series, and the Athletics threw inside at Machado right before he threw the bat. I’m guessing Machado and Fernando Abad (who threw at Machado) will both be suspended some length of time this week. Anyway, this an unnecessarily long way of pointing out Machado is hitting .254/.288/.381 (81 wRC+) over the last calendar year. The fans at Camden Yards booed him following each one of his at-bats during last night’s 0-for-4. Boy that honeymoon sure is over, huh? Machado got lumped in with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper as part of the next wave of superstars, but he was always a notch below those two because of his general lack of plate discipline. Now the kid is throwing fits because he didn’t like the way he was tagged. Maybe it’s time for a little wake up call stint in the minors? Don’t get me wrong, I’d take Machado on the Yankees in a heartbeat, but he’s part of the problem right now for Baltimore, not part of the solution.
According to his Twitter feed, RHP Ty Hensley will throw three innings in an Extended Spring Training game tomorrow. He’s working his way up to five innings. The two short season leagues open their seasons in a little less than two weeks, so it seems like he’ll be stretched out just in time to join one of ‘em.
Triple-A Scranton (7-4 win over Toledo)
- LF Jose Pirela: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB — not his first time playing left field, in case you were wondering … he’s done it plenty of times in the past
- C Frankie Cervelli: 0-4 — picked a runner off second with a snap throw … caught all nine innings for the first time during his rehab assignment
- CF Adonis Garcia: 2-2 — left the game for an unknown inning after singling and running the bases in the third
- RF Zoilo Almonte: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K
- SS Zelous Wheeler: 2-4, 1 R, 2 RBI
- 3B Scott Sizemore: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K
- DH Austin Romine: 1-2, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 12-for-37 (.324) with four doubles, two homers, six walks, and eight strikeouts in his last ten games
- RHP Shawn Kelley: 1 IP, 1 Hm 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 11 of 16 pitches were strikes (69%), plus he threw some more pitches in the bullpen afterward according to Donnie Collins … Kelley told Collins he doesn’t know what the next step will be, but he assumes he will join the big league team
- RHP Joel De La Cruz: 4 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 Balk, 6/2 GB/FB — 43 of 62 pitches were strikes (69%)
- RHP Danny Burawa: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K — 0/1 GB/FB — 13 of 20 pitches were strikes (65%)
7:48pm: The game will indeed by made up on August 25th, the Yankees announced. The team also confirmed the rotation will be pushed back a day and Nuno will start tomorrow night’s game in Seattle.
6:26pm: Tonight’s series finale against the Royals has been postponed, the teams announced. It’s supposed to rain all night and into tomorrow in Kansas City. There’s not even going to be a window big enough to squeeze the minimum five innings in, so instead the Yankees will fly out to Seattle a few hours early.
A makeup date is being discussed now, but these two clubs only share two mutual off-days the rest of the season: Thursday, June 26th and Monday, August 25th. Pete Caldera says they’re looking at the August date for the makeup, when the Yankees would be between series in New York and Detroit. That’s not too bad. Losing the off-day bites though.
Joe Girardi told reporters they are leaning towards pushing the rotation back a day and giving everyone some extra rest, which means Vidal Nuno will start tomorrow’s series opener against the Mariners instead of Masahiro Tanaka. They had the option of skipping Nuno all together. Tomorrow’s game was also slated to be Tanaka vs. Hisashi Iwakuma, and I’m guessing a lot of people will be disappointed that matchup is off. An entire country’s worth, even. · (24) ·
The Yankees and Royals were rained out tonight, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing for the Bombers. Both the bullpen and rotation get a little extra rest, and the struggling offense gets to spend a day away from the park to clear their heads a bit. Off-days are a good thing, even surprise ones.
Here is your open thread for the sudden Yankees baseball-less night. ESPN is showing the Dodgers and Reds (Haren vs. Cingrani), plus the (hockey) Rangers are playing Game Three of the Stanley Cup Finals (8pm ET on NBCSN). They’re down two-zip in the best-of-seven series and really need a win at home. Talk about those games or anything else right here.
The Yankees have outrighted righty Alfredo Aceves to Triple-A Scranton. according to the MiLB.com transactions page. Chris Cotillo says he has accepted the assignment rather than elect free agency, so he’ll join the team in the coming days. Aceves was designated for assignment last week to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for lefty Wade LeBlanc. He remains in the organization as a non-40-man roster player. I don’t know if that is a good thing or bad thing. He was pretty terrible. I guess hanging onto the depth is fine. · (17) ·
The Yankees lost for the eighth time in their last 12 games yesterday, and only four times in that stretch did they score more than three runs. They’re hitting .240/.292/.322 as a team during those 12 games and are averaging 2.67 runs per game. Last season’s club boasted the worst Yankees offense since the early 1990, and they scored 250 runs through their first 62 games. This year’s team has 249.
The offensive struggles are becoming untenable. The pitching staff is already stretched thin due to injury and asking them to carry a lineup barely able to scratch out three runs a night is totally unrealistic. The Yankees revamped their bullpen slightly last week and the time has come to shake up the offense as well. Their options to improve the offense are limited because of large contracts and whatnot, but here are three pretty simple ideas.
Bat Jeter Leadoff
Let’s state the obvious here: Derek Jeter hasn’t hit a lick this year. He’s managed a .254/.312/.300 (71 wRC+) batting line through 234 plate appearances and ranks dead last out of 167 qualified hitters with a .047 ISO. Even Ben Revere has hit for more power. According to Baseball Savant, Jeter has seen the highest rate of pitches over 90 mph (55.2%) among players with at least 100 at-bats, and against those pitches he has the lowest ISO (.019!) and the fifth lowest batting average (.235) in baseball. Opponents know he can’t hit fastballs so they’re throwing the ball right by him. It’s sorta embarrassing at this point.
And yet, because he’s Derek Jeter, he’s batted second all season and he’ll continue to bat second going forward. The Yankees have made it clear they won’t do anything to upset their captain — remember when they gave him a raise for no apparent reason over the winter? that was weird — and at least part of that is due to the fact that his retirement tour is a cash cow. Attendance, ratings, and merchandise sales would take a hit if Jeter is given a lesser role. The Yankees are all about winning, as long as it doesn’t upset Jeter or hurt their bottom line.
So, the club is stuck batting him in a prime lineup spot. That’s reality and it’s been made very clear. To make the best of a bad situation, the Yankees should move Jeter up a lineup spot, from second to leadoff. Why? Because it would allow them to bunch their four best hitters together. Rather than having the unproductive Jeter splinter Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in the lineup, they could bat him leadoff, then go with Gardner in the two spot ahead of Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, and Yangervis Solarte.
Because the Yankees don’t hit for any power — they’ve hit four homers in their last 13 games, four! — they have to string together base hits and walks to score runs. The best possible way to do that is to bunch your best hitters together in the lineup, not spread them out. All you’re doing is adding outs to the equation by spreading them out and that reduces the chances of scoring. Bat Jeter leadoff, get his at-bat out of the way, then give the team’s four best hitters a chance to do some damage. Don’t try to include him in the rally because he’s shown these last 62 games he can’t help offensively.
Exit Roberts, Enter Sizemore
The Yankees were in a real tough spot when Robinson Cano bolted for the Mariners, and yet, because of the contract he signed, it was totally understandable why they let him walk. That didn’t make finding a replacement any easier — Omar Infante has a 66 wRC+ in the first year of his four-year contract, by the way — so the Yankees settled on Proven Veteran™ Brian Roberts, who has a .239/.317/.350 (85 wRC+) batting line in 203 plate appearances. Somehow he’s stayed healthy so far.
Like Jeter, it’s clear Roberts isn’t going to provide much with the bat. He had a little hot streak a few weeks ago but even then that only raised him up to a .690 OPS for the season, the highest it’s been since the third game of the year. Unlike Jeter, the Yankees can replace Roberts. He’s not a legacy player, there are no long-standing ties to him, and it’s not like he’s hit when he’s been healthy the last few years either. His only redeeming quality on offense is his ability to have consistently long at-bats (3.97 pitches per plate appearances), which isn’t worth a whole lot by itself.
Since Roberts isn’t hitting and is one of the few disposable pieces in the lineup, the Yankees should replace him with … Solarte. Solarte’s natural position is second base and he’s looked much more comfortable defensively there than at the hot corner. That would allow them to call up Scott Sizemore and use him in a third base platoon with Kelly Johnson. Johnson’s hit 16+ homers in each of the last four years and this team can’t hit for power. I don’t know how they expect him to remain productive playing him once a week out of position at first base. Dump Roberts and go with Solarte at second and the Sizemore/Johnson platoon at third.
Exit Soriano, Enter Almonte
Joe wrote about dumping Alfonso Soriano last week and I don’t really have anything to add. He’s hitting .229/.255/.396 (71 wRC+) with 60 strikeouts and five unintentional walks this year, and since April 25th his swing and miss rate is 17.8%, which is absurd. His at-bats aren’t even competitive. The Yankees are only paying Soriano $5M this season and this point they only owe him another $3M or so. It’s a sunk cost. Cut him loose and let someone else play.
That someone, in my opinion, should be Zoilo Almonte. I’m not sold on Adonis Garcia and there really isn’t another viable MLB outfield option in Triple-A. Almonte has some power, swatting eight homers in 38 Triple-A games this year. He also has seasons of 15 and 21 homers in the minors. Zoilo is a switch-hitter but not really; he’s awful against lefties. He’s hit .296/.355/.502 against righties in the minors since 2011 but only .255/.313/.386 against southpaws. The left side of the plate is clearly his better side.
Ichiro Suzuki isn’t terrible against lefties though, hitting .375/.423/.417 (129 wRC+) against them this year and .347/.360/.462 (124 wRC+) since joining the Yankees in 2012. I don’t understand it either, but whatever. Rather than continuing to stick with the wholly unproductive Soriano, the club could roll with the unconventional two lefty platoon in right field — Almonte against righties and Ichiro against lefties. As with the proposed second/third base arrangement above, there’s a decent chance the Almonte/Ichiro platoon will improve both the offense and defense. Crazy, I know.
* * *
The Yankees don’t have much flexibility with their everyday lineup, mostly due to contracts but also because of their undying devotion to Jeter. The offense has been stagnant for way too long for them to remain status quo and wait for things to improve — “We’re just trying to move this thing along. If there are guys struggling in New York, I can’t wait,” said Brian Cashman to Donnie Collins recently — and those are three simple ways to shake things up and give the team a better opportunity to score. They could roll out this regular lineup:
- Carlos Beltran or Brian McCann
- Beltran or McCann
- Almonte/Ichiro platoon
- Johnson/Sizemore platoon
The four best hitters on the team are bunched together and there’s a little bit of pop in the lower third of the lineup. No one will confuse that group for the 1927 Yankees or even the 2012 Yankees, but two of the three worst hitters would be replaced and the third will be de-emphasized in the sense that the club’s best hitters won’t have to try to build a rally around him. It’ll be like Jeter is hitting ninth once the lineup turns over.
There’s not much the Yankees can do to improve their occasionally non-existent offense, but a shakeup is still in order. They can do it without creating a stir with Jeter as long as they’re willing to cut bait with two unproductive veterans and give a young guy like Almonte a chance. What they have now just isn’t working.
Record Last Week: 2-5 (19 RS, 35 RA)
Season Record: 31-31 (249 RS, 280 RA, 27-35 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: @ Royals (one game, Mon.), @ Mariners (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), @ Athletics (three games, Fri. to Sun.)
Top stories from last week:
- The week started with one game against the Mariners, a makeup game stemming from an April rainout. Seattle won the game in a blowout.
- The Athletics came to town for a three-game set after that, and Oakland took the first game after the bullpen melted down. The Yankees could not protect a four-run lead on Wednesday, but they won the finale behind Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka was named the AL Pitcher of the Month for May.
- The Yankees headed to Kansas City for a four-game wrap around series in Kansas City on Friday. They won the opener behind Chase Whitley, but David Phelps got roughed up on Saturday. The club managed to go 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position in yesterday’s loss.
- Injury Updates: CC Sabathia (knee) has started playing catch. Shawn Kelley (back) pitched in a minor league rehab game and will do it again on Monday. OF Ramon Flores (ankle) and IF Dean Anna (unknown) were placed on the Triple-A Scranton DL. 3B Eric Jagielo (oblique) will miss another week or so.
- The Yankees activated Carlos Beltran (elbow) off the 15-day DL and sent Scott Sizemore to Triple-A Scranton. Wade LeBlanc was claimed off waivers from the Angels, Jose Ramirez was called up, Preston Claiborne was demoted, and Alfredo Aceves was designated for assignment as part of a bullpen shakeup.
- With their top pick in the 2014 amateur draft (second round), the Yankees selected Mississippi State LHP Jacob Lindgren. He said he wants to sign “as soon as possible.” Here is what happened on Day Two and Day Three of the draft.
- Kendrys Morales agreed to a contract with the Twins after the Yankees asked him to hold off on signing.
- The Yankees extended their player development contract with Triple-A Scranton through 2018.
- Derek Jeter wants to become on owner after his playing career is over.
- Former Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer passed away at age 83.
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?