The best thing about off-days is they give me a chance to get some other stuff done. Believe it or not, RAB can feel like a 9-to-5 job at times. Earlier today I was cleaning out some bookmarks and stumbled across that video of ESPN’s E:60 feature on Mariano Rivera‘s from May. Apparently I never bothered to post it. So, yeah, here it is. They look at Rivera’s upbringing and all sorts of other stuff. Check it out.
Once you’re done with that, use this as your open thread for the night. MLB Network is showing the Orioles at the Red Sox (Tillman vs. Lester), a game that will impact the Yankees’ already small postseason chances. There’s also a full slate of NFL preseason games. You folks know how these things work by now, so have at it.
The MRI on Eduardo Nunez’s right knee came back clean, the Yankees announced. He is day-to-day. Nunez hurt himself on Tuesday when he caught a spike on the Rogers Center turf and fell to the infield. It would have been the most 2013 Yankees injury ever. Nunez worked out prior to yesterday’s game but had to sit out because he was unable to run at 100%. With Jayson Nix done for the year and Derek Jeter still a relative unknown following a third leg injury, losing Nunez would have been a pretty big blow. The team doesn’t have much infield depth. · (13) ·
If there’s one thing we learned from Derek Jeter‘s injury this year, it’s that the Yankees have very little shortstop depth in the minor leagues. Especially at the upper levels. There’s nothing after the now-injured Eduardo Nunez, which is why guys like Reid Brignac, Chris Nelson, and Alberto Gonzalez found their way onto the team at various points of the season. They didn’t bring those guys in out of boredom. They were necessary because the farm system had nothing to offer.
That lack of shortstop — and really middle infield all together — depth will carry over to next season. David Adams and even Corban Joseph could step in at second base on an emergency basis, but it’s tough to consider either guy an everyday option. Finding quality infield depth to either put on the bench or stash with Triple-A Scranton should be a priority this winter, and frankly they could use some help right now with Jayson Nix out for the season and Nunez heading for an MRI today.
Bill Ladson reported yesterday that the Nationals are trying to trade 26-year-old Danny Espinosa, their starting second baseman since Opening Day 2011. He wound up in Triple-A back in June because he was awful and Ladson says the team isn’t even committed to bringing him back up when rosters expand in September. They’ve very clearly soured on him. Does it make sense for the Yankees to pursue a trade, either before the August 31st deadline (so he can be eligible for the potential playoff roster) or over the winter? Let’s look.
- Espinosa broke into the show in September 2010 and hit .242/.319/.408 (99 wRC+) with 38 homers and a 7.9% walk rate during his two full seasons from 2011-2012. He’s a switch hitter who did his best work against lefties (124 wRC+) while being a non-embarrassment against righties (91 wRC+).
- The various defensive metrics have all rated Espinosa as above-average at second (+16 DRS, +14.5 UZR, +20 Total Zone) and no worse than average at short (+4, +5.0, +7) in parts of four big league seasons. His playing time at short is limited (335 innings) because of Ian Desmond, so sample size and all that.
- Espinosa is 38-for-52 (73%) in stolen base attempts as a big leaguer and 61-for-86 (71%) in his minor league career. He’s been almost exactly league average in terms of non-stolen base base-running, like going first-to-third on a single. That kinda stuff.
- Espinosa is right on the Super Two bubble. If he comes up in September, he’ll qualify. If he stays down, he won’t. Either way, he can’t become a free agent until after the 2017 season and has at least one and likely two minor league options remaining.
- Espinosa has been an absolute disaster at the plate this season. He hit .158/.193/.272 (23 wRC+) in 167 plate appearances before being sent to Triple-A Syracuse, where he’s hit .215/.2717/.289 (58 wRC+) in 297 plate appearances. Ghastly.
- Even when productive, Espinosa was always a high-strikeout player. He whiffed in 27.0% of his plate appearances from 2011-2012 and 27.1% of his big league plate appearances overall. In Triple-A this season, it’s a 33.0% strikeout rate. Contact from either side of the plate is not his strong suit.
- Espinosa’s recent injury history is grim and he makes matters worse by playing hurt all the time. He had a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder late last season and a fracture in his right wrist (caused by a hit-by-pitch) earlier this year. A thumb issue has been bothering him in the minors of late. Espinosa spent 16 days on the DL for the wrist immediately before being sent down and that’s it. Played through everything else.
Obviously the various injury problems could be the root cause of Espinosa’s terrible year at the plate. You almost hope they are because then at least you have an explanation. If he was perfectly healthy and performing like this, it would be much bigger red flag. I understand the whole tough guy/playing through pain thing, but Espinosa has done himself a disservice these last two seasons. We’re not talking about a sore finger or a banged up knee here. If he needs surgery for the shoulder or wrist or whatever, his team (Nationals or otherwise) should get it taken care of ASAP this offseason.
Anyway, Espinosa represents a buy low opportunity right now. His recent performance has been terrible and Washington doesn’t seem eager to keep him around, which is exactly when you want to pounce. Maybe they can get him for pennies on the dollar, a la Nick Swisher a few years ago. Swisher’s poor year and clashes with then-manager Ozzie Guillen all worked to the Yankees advantage. Espinosa is in a similar situation. Three years of Jed Lowrie, another true switch-hitting middle infielder with injury problems, cost a big league reliever in a trade when he went from the Red Sox to the Astros last year. That seems like a decent reference as far as trade talks for Espinosa, but it’s not a perfect match.
The Yankees need to prioritize middle infield depth this winter and Espinosa offers both roster flexibility and some upside. Upside in the sense that he could return to his 2011-2012 form and become an everyday player who provides average offense and above-average defense at a hard to fill position. If he’s just an up-and-down spare infielder going forward, that’s okay too. The Yankees need one of them. Espinosa is not a savior. In a perfect world he’s an eighth or ninth place hitter who hits the occasional homer, steals the occasional base, and makes all the plays in the field. It boils down to this: Espinosa is a 26-year-old middle infielder with another four years of team control who put together back-to-back 3+ WAR seasons before an injury filled 2013. That’s someone the Yankees should go after while his stock is down.
- Robinson Cano (hand) received treatment yesterday but will not know if he can play in tomorrow’s series opener against the Orioles until he takes batting practice. “The swelling has decreased,” said Cano. “I’ll swing in the cage and see how it feels, try to get ready for batting practice. I would say during batting practice, I would know.”
- David Phelps (forearm) has been working his way back from two different strains. “I think it’s pretty soon he’ll pick up a ball,” said Joe Girardi. There’s almost no chance Phelps will return this season if he hasn’t even started playing catch yet.
- Michael Pineda (shoulder) has been throwing side sessions in Tampa. Yesterday we heard he had started throwing off flat ground, but that report was ten days old. My bad. Good to know he’s actually gotten back on a mound. At this point, it seems unlikely Pineda will join the team in September, which means he won’t qualify as a Super Two.
- Zoilo Almonte (ankle) has started hitting off a tee and soft toss. There’s a chance he’ll be able to take regular batting practice by the end of the week. Almonte’s rehab was delayed because he had his wisdom teeth removed. This season, man.
- Travis Hafner (shoulder) has also started hitting off a tee and soft toss. Like Almonte, he could start taking regular ol’ batting practice before the end of the week. Remember when he hit .318/.438/.667 (196 wRC+) in April? Good times.
“I would say we are in a desperate time. Ownership wants to go for it. I didn’t want to give up a young arm [Corey Black]. But I understand the desperate need we have for offense. And Soriano will help us. The bottom line is this guy makes us better. Did ownership want him? Absolutely, yes. Does he make us better? Absolutely, yes. This is what Hal wants, and this is why we are doing it.”
That’s what Brian Cashman told Joel Sherman just days after the Yankees acquired Alfonso Soriano last month. A lot of people have taken that to mean Cashman didn’t want Soriano, but he didn’t really say that. Maybe he meant it, but he didn’t say it. He simply said he didn’t want to give up a good but not great Single-A pitching prospect for a good but not great corner outfielder. Considering the Cubs had little leverage after Soriano said he would only waive his no-trade clause to come back to the Yankees, you can argue Black was an overpay. I think it was a fair trade, but that’s just me. Maybe Cashman thought they could get him while giving up something less. That’s not unreasonable.
Now that Soriano is pretty much carrying the team offensively — or at least producing the loudest with all the homers — Cashman’s taking a ton of heat for not wanting him even though that’s not what he said. It kinda sounds like he said that though and now he looks silly. Such is life. Does that have any actual impact on the team’s performance? Maybe, but I find that hard to believe. Maybe Cashman’s ego is bruised, but who really cares about that. He’s been the GM of the New York Yankees for a long ass time; I’m pretty sure he’s learned to tune out the public perception of him and the job he’s doing. You kinda have to to survive that long.
The question I and I think a lot of people have is why? Why did Cashman go public with his disagreement with the trade? Was he simply responding to a question or was it unprovoked? Was he suggesting the Yankees stink and should focus on rebuilding rather than adding another ancient player signed through 2014? Is he just sick of being over-ruled? No one knows other than Cashman and that sucks because it leads to all sorts of speculation. We’re all guilty of it and none of it is productive. Sure is fun though.
There is one thing I do know: Brian Cashman isn’t stupid. If you’ve listened to him talk at any point in the last like, 15 years, then you know he’s mastered the art of saying both a lot of words and nothing at all. He gives these long-winded answers and there’s nothing to them. Lots of words and no information. It’s amazing. Joe Girardi has gotten good at it as well. When Cashman does say something with actual substance, it’s because he wants to. There’s a reason he came out and said he didn’t agree with
the Soriano deal trading Corey Black. There’s a message for someone in there.
An important thing — maybe the most important thing — to remember is that there are reputations involved here. What if Cashman was in trade talks with other clubs and told them Black was untouchable? It sure would look bad if he turned around and dealt him to the Cubs, wouldn’t it? That would make it tough to trust the guy in future trade conversations in my opinion. I remember a few years ago, while speaking at a WFAN charity event, Cashman said part of the reason he was so outspoken following the Rafael Soriano signing was because he had told other agents he was unwilling to go three years on a relief pitcher. He had to let those guys know hey, it wasn’t me. My bosses did it.
Cashman said he didn’t want to trade Black for Soriano for some reason. Some reason we don’t know. I don’t think he was out there thumping his chest trying to reassert his dominance over the baseball operations. He and the Steinbrenners reportedly have a great relationship and that’s the most important thing. That he’s not a simple “yes man” and is voicing his displeasure is a good thing (to some extent) even if comes off as unprofessional. A bunch of guys sitting around a table agreeing with each other is no way to build a baseball team. There has to be different voices. Cashman has been more outspoken these last few years — I find it really refreshing because he’s snarky and often brutally honest — and I think all of it is calculated. He’s not doing this for fun. There’s a method to Cashman’s madness.
CF Melky Mesa has been placed on the Triple-A Scranton DL with a hamstring problem, reports Donnie Collins. He pulled up lame running out a ground ball the other day. Terrible timing for Melky with September call-ups right around the corner. Hopefully it’s nothing serious. C Jose Gill has been called up from Double-A Trenton to fill the roster spot.
Triple-A Scranton (5-4 win over Lehigh Valley in 12 innings, walk-off style)
- 2B David Adams: 1-5, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
- C J.R. Murphy: 3-6, 4 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K — scored the winning run on a walk-off passed ball
- LF Ronnie Mustelier: 3-6, 1 R, 2 2B, 2 K — has multiple hits in seven of the last ten games
- RHP Caleb Cotham: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 7/3 GB/FB — 56 of 85 pitches were strikes (66%)
- RHP Matt Daley: 2 IP, zeroes, 4 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 18 of 29 pitches were strikes (62%) … 70/10 K/BB in 50.2 innings this year
Eduardo Nunez will have an MRI on his right knee in New York on Thursday. He tweaked it after catching a spike and falling on Tuesday night, but it got worse during pre-game warm-ups on Wednesday. The Yankees are already thin on the infield thanks to Jayson Nix’s injury, so losing Nunez to the DL again would create some problems. · (6) ·
If the fat lady hasn’t started singing yet, it might be time to get her warmed up. The Yankees were blown out 7-2 by the last place Blue Jays on Wednesday, dropping two of three in the series and four of six on the road trip.
Fatigue or regression or whatever can be cruel. Hiroki Kuroda, the usually ultra-reliable and crazy effective Hiroki Kuroda, got smacked around the park for the third consecutive start. Eight of the first dozen batters he faced on Wednesday reached base and six came around to score. There were softly hit singles, well-struck doubles, a monster homer, a two-run strikeout (more on that in a second) … a little bit of everything. The only common thread was Kuroda’s general inability to fool the Blue Jays hitters. They hit him hard.
The end result for Kuroda was seven runs (five earned) on five singles, three doubles, one walk, one homer, and one hit batsman on 99 pitches in five innings. With a) two long men in the bullpen, b) an off-day on Thursday, and c) September call-ups right around the corner, I thought Kuroda should have been out of game after the second inning. He was obviously laboring and I didn’t see the point to sparing the bullpen. Hiroki has clearly run into a wall and this was a good opportunity to give him a bit or a rest. No need to make him throw all those stressful pitches. Alas, Joe Girardi felt differently.
“You’re still a cheater A-ROID!!!” guy yells below the press box. “A cheater on first base!” Rodriguez yells back.
— Brendan Kennedy (@BKennedyStar) August 29, 2013
I’ve watched a lot of baseball in my life and I can now say I’ve seen a two-run strikeout. That one wasn’t on the bucket list, believe it or not. Chris Stewart muffed a fastball right down the middle in the first inning, then compounded the problem when he hit the runner with the throw on his way to first. The ball ricocheted into foul territory and two runs scored. Two runs scored after a called strike three. Two*.
The Yankees had a small chance to get back into the game in the fourth, after Todd Redmond walked the first two batters of the inning. They scored one run on Alex Rodriguez‘s single and another on Mark Reynolds‘ booming double to left, but A-Rod was thrown out at the plate by a mile on the play. Replays confirmed third base coach Robbie Thomson waved Alex in. Maybe don’t send the 38-year-old with two bad hips down five runs? Instead of having runners on second and third with one out, they had a runner on second with two outs. Sucks.
Aside from that fourth inning, the Robinson Cano-less lineup did a whole bunch of nothing. Redmond struck out seven in 5.2 innings and the Yankees were held to five hits and four walks. Reynolds had three of those five hits while Derek Jeter and Rodriguez had one apiece. Brett Gardner drew two of the walks, Curtis Granderson and Alfonso Soriano the others. Only three of the final 19 men they sent to the plate reached base.
Joba Chamberlain (two innings), Shawn Kelley (one out), and Boone Logan (two outs) wrapped things up in relief of Kuroda. I wasn’t paying attention in that eighth inning — did Girardi actually mix and match his relievers with a five-run deficit? Or was Kelley hurt? That would be the icing on the cake.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, go to MLB.com. For some much nerdier stats, go to FanGraphs. For the updated standings, go to ESPN. The Athletics destroyed the Tigers again, so the Yankees are now six games back of the second wildcard spot in the loss column. Cool Standings gives them a 6.2% chance of making the postseason with 29 games to play.
The Yankees are off on Thursday and will open a hugely important three-game series against the Orioles in the Bronx on Friday night. That is legitimately the biggest series of the year, at least until the next series after that. CC Sabathia and Miguel Gonzalez will be your pitching matchup for the opener. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game live.
For the first time this season and the first time in 175 games dating back to last year, Robinson Cano is not in the Yankees starting lineup tonight. He is day-to-day with a left hand contusion after being hit by a J.A. Happ pitch last night. With the off-day tomorrow, it’s no surprise they’re resting him tonight and hoping the two consecutive days off have him ready to go for the Orioles series come Friday. Assuming he won’t come off the bench at some point, this will be Robbie’s first full game off since August 15th of last year, when a stiff neck sidelined him for a day. #lazy
Here’s the lineup Joe Girardi is running out there against right-hander Todd Redmond:
- CF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- DH Curtis Granderson
- LF Alfonso Soriano
- 3B Alex Rodriguez
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- 2B Mark Reynolds — Eduardo Nunez and his sore knee didn’t make it through batting practice
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- C Chris Stewart
And on the mound is right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who is coming off his worst start of the season. The Yankees need him to get back to pitching like a true ace if they want to have any chance at the postseason.
First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
Homeruns are fun, and no one is having more fun right now than Alfonso Soriano. In 30 games since returning to the Yankees, Soriano has hit eleven homers, including several dramatic late-inning game-winners. The Bombers may not make the postseason this year, but it won’t be because he didn’t deliver after coming over from the Cubs. Soriano has been excellent and a major shot in the arm for the offense (and, somewhat surprisingly, the defense as well).
From 2011-2012, no one had more fun that Curtis Granderson. He led all of baseball with 84 homers during those two seasons, ten more than tied-for-second Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Braun. The self-proclaimed “not a power hitter” was baseball’s premier power hitter until a pair of fluke hit-by-pitch injuries sabotaged his 2013 season. Oddly enough, homeruns are the reason Granderson is being overlooked right now. Soriano is stealing the show.
In 24 games since coming off the DL, Curtis is hitting .291/.412/.456 (140 wRC+) with three homers, six steals (in seven attempts), 17 walks (17.5%), and 25 strikeouts (25.8%). The power production isn’t the same as it has been in recent years, but hopefully that will come around as he gets further away from the forearm and hand fractures. Granderson does have a .196 ISO in his last 15 games after putting up a .107 ISO in his first nine games back, so that’s encouraging. (Also: Hooray arbitration endpoints.)
Instead, Granderson’s recent production has come in the form of on-base ability. He reached base three times (two singles and a walk) in last night’s blowout win over the Blue Jays and has reached base at least once in 20 of his 22 starts since rejoining the team. Curtis went 0-for-4 in his first game off the DL and 0-for-4 in Friday’s series opener against the Rays. That’s it. Heck, he’s reached base at least twice in 12 of those 22 starts. That ridiculous 17.5% walk rate isn’t being padded by intentional walks (just one) or hit-by-pitches (zero) either.
Because he is a high-strikeout hitter, Granderson was stereotyped as someone who rarely walked in recent years. I have no idea why people think someone who strikes out a lot doesn’t walk much, usually the exact opposite is true, but that line of thinking does exists. Granderson doesn’t fit the bill at all though, his career walk rate (10.3%) is well-above-average and he’s been even better as a Yankee (11.4%). He has also consistently ranked among baseball’s leaders in pitches per plate appearances throughout his career. Walks require working deep counts and strikeouts are a byproduct. They come with the territory.
Obviously a 17.5% walk rate is probably not something Granderson will be able to maintain long-term. Only two guys — Jose Bautista (20.2% in 2011) and Adrian Gonzalez (17.5% in 2009) — have managed a walk rate that high over a full season in the last five years. You would expect that number to come down and his power production to go up in the coming weeks, but the season is almost over. There’s no guarantee Granderson’s walk and power rates will regress to his career norms — or, really, to his current talent level — before the end of the season. Instead of being a power hitter, he might be more of an on-base guy for the Yankees this year.
Either way, Granderson has been very productive for New York since coming off the DL. The shape of that production has been a little different than what we’ve come to expect — instead of a power-heavy 140 wRC+ it’s been an on-base heavy 140 wRC+. That’s perfectly fine. Production is production, and frankly the Yankees probably need the on-base skills more than the power right now given the rest of the roster. The rank 17th out of the 30 clubs with a 7.7% walk rate, their lowest as a team since 1991. Soriano’s homers are stealing the show, but Granderson has been outstanding as well these last few weeks.