Last night’s series-opening win against the Orioles was great and it means nothing now. This is a new day and there’s a new game to win. That’s how the Yankees have approach the rest of the season because they simply can’t afford to sit around an enjoy a win for much time. They might not make it to the postseason, but you know what? These are playoff games right now. It’s October in August. Here’s the lineup Joe Girardi is running out there against right-hander Scott Feldman:
- CF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- 2B Robinson Cano
- DH Alfonso Soriano
- LF Curtis Granderson
- 3B Mark Reynolds — Alex Rodriguez was a late scratch with flu-like symptoms
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- C Chris Stewart
And on the mound is right-hander Ivan Nova. His last three starts have been a little shaky but not complete disasters. The Yankees did manage to win all three games, thankfully. Nova walked a career-high tying six batters last time out and if he does that against the Orioles, it’ll be a big problem. They rank dead last in the AL in walk rate (6.7%) and first in MLB in homers (178).
It’s another warm and humid day in New York, and there are some showers in the forecast for later this afternoon. It doesn’t look like they will impact the game unless it goes to extra innings or something, but who really knows with the weather. The game is scheduled to begin a little after 1pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.
Injury Update: Eduardo Nunez (knee) is available off the bench today. No offense to Eduardo, but hopefully the starters stay healthy and they don’t need him.
Via Joel Sherman: The Yankees are “very likely” to call up J.R. Murphy to be the third catcher once rosters expand in September. He has to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft this coming offseason anyway, so they’ll get it out of the way early and let him spend a month in the big leagues. Austin Romine and Chris Stewart are the only catchers on the 40-man roster at the moment with Frankie Cervelli injured/suspended. I assume Jayson Nix (broken hand) will be transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a roster spot.
Murphy, 22, is hitting .269/.346/.426 (~118 wRC+) with 12 homers in 468 plate appearances split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this year while throwing out 50 of 136 attempted base-stealers (37%). The RailRiders currently have three catchers on the roster and their season ends on Tuesday (they aren’t going to the playoffs), so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees called up Murphy tomorrow instead of waiting for Wednesday. I wouldn’t expect him to play much down the stretch — he’ll catch bullpen sessions to learn the staff, that kind of stuff — but just being in the big leagues is valuable experience and a nice reward for a strong year. · (65) ·
You gotta win the first one before you can win ‘em all. The offense and the bullpen picked up a (once again) shaky CC Sabathia in the series opener of this all important series against the Orioles, carrying the team to an 8-5 win. Let’s recap:
- Yankee Killer I: In the span of five fifth inning pitches, the Yankees had more doubles (three) and homers (one) against Miguel Gonzalez than they had against him in any of his previous seven starts against New York. The righty completely unraveled and the result was a five-run inning that turned a two-run deficit into a three-run lead. Ichiro Suzuki‘s two-run homer and Robinson Cano‘s two-run single were the big blows. Gonzalez was charged with seven runs in four innings, the same number of runs New York scored against him in their previous four meetings combined. Seriously.
- Yankee Killer II: Sabathia is really, really bad right now. The O’s tagged him for five runs in 5.1 innings, raising his ERA to 7.38 since the All-Star break. He allowed two-out run-scoring singles to Chris Davis (fine), Manny Machado (argh), and Nick Markakis (wtf?) as well as a two-run homer to Danny Valencia (WTF!). Joe Girardi finally shortened the leash and pulled Sabathia after just 86 pitches because, simply, the bullpen was the far better option at that point of the game. I really hate what CC has become.
- Bullpen On Parade: Give Girardi credit, he knows these games are all proverbial must-wins and he didn’t screw around. He brought Shawn Kelley into the sixth inning and used David Robertson for four outs to secure the win. Four relievers (Boone Logan and Mariano Rivera got in on the action as well) retired ten of 13 batters faced and kept the Orioles at bay in the later innings. These guys will have to be nails down the stretch. Thankfully Preston Claiborne is only a few days away and will lend a hand.
- Leftovers: Cano (two singles), Mark Reynolds (double, two singles), Curtis Granderson (two singles), and Ichiro (homer, single) all had multiple hits while Alfonso Soriano launched a two-run homer. Alex Rodriguez singled in an insurance run in the eighth and Austin Romine doubled. Every Yankee had a hit except for Derek Jeter, who drew a walk … the Yankees made one out at third base and two at home plate, which is just brutal … Soriano stole third base for the third time in the last five games … Reynolds, who should play everyday over Lyle Overbay at this point, has back-to-back three hit games for the first time since August 2009 … the Yankees sent 37 batters to the plate and only one struck out: Jeter in the seventh.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees are six games back of the Rays and five games back of the Athletics for the two wildcard spots, and they’re guaranteed to gain a game on at least one of them because they’re playing each other out on the West Coast. The Bombers did pickup a game on the Orioles (duh) and will do the same on the Indians as soon as the Tigers get finished blowing them out. Cool Standings has New York’s playoff odds at 9.4% at the moment.
Andy Pettitte Ivan Nova and Scott Feldman is your pitching matchup on Saturday afternoon. RAB Tickets can get you in the door.
Triple-A Scranton (5-4 loss to Lehigh Valley, walk-off style)
- C J.R. Murphy: 1-5, 1 R
- LF Ronnie Mustelier: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
- 1B Randy Ruiz: 2-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K — believe it or not, that’s his first homer in 18 games and just his second in the last 30 days
- 2B David Adams: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI
- RHP Chase Whitley: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 9/3 GB/FB – 50 of 79 pitches were strikes (63%) … he’s Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season, it’ll be interesting to see if they call him up in September if they want an extra arm now that he’s somewhat stretched out
- LHP Cesar Cabral: 0.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 K — seven of eight pitches were strikes
- RHP Dellin Betances: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 16 of 26 pitches were strikes (62%) … probably his final outing before joining the big league team when rosters expand
The Yankees start a ten-game homestand tonight and if they’re ever going to claw their way back into the postseason race, this is the time to do it. They’ve negated every hot streak with a cold streak in recent weeks and have gained basically zero ground in the standings. There’s no more time for this nonsense. Beat a division rival and one of the teams you’re chasing this weekend, beat a last place team this week, then beat another division rival next week. If they don’t … well then their season is basically over. Here’s the lineup that will face right-hander Miguel Gonzalez:
- CF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Alfonso Soriano
- 3B Alex Rodriguez
- DH Curtis Granderson
- 1B Mark Reynolds
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- C Austin Romine
And on the mound is left-hander CC Sabathia, who need to throw 36.1 consecutive scoreless innings if he wants to get his season ERA down to 4.00. He’s got about six starts left this year, so he better get on that soon.
It’s warm, cloudy, and humid in New York, but there’s no threat of rain and that’s all that matters. The next two days might be a little different, but we’ll worry about that when the time comes. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally.
Thanks to yesterday’s off-day, the Yankees have pushed Phil Hughes’ next start back from Sunday to Monday. That allows him to start against the last place White Sox rather than the wildcard rival Orioles. Andy Pettitte, who was scheduled to start Monday, will instead start against Baltimore on Sunday on normal rest. Not surprising at all. The Yankees can’t run Hughes out there against a
goodteam and expect to win. · (12) ·
Biggest series of the year? Biggest series of the year. At least until the next series, anyway. The Yankees have a tiny — 7.0% according to Cool Standings and 4.1% according to Baseball Prospectus — chance of making the postseason at this point and if they want to capitalize, they have to do some damage this weekend. Winning two of three probably isn’t good enough anymore.
What Have They Done Lately?
Manager Buck Showalter’s team held on to beat the Red Sox yesterday but lost the previous two games and the series. The Orioles have been playing roughly .500 baseball for about a month now and come into this series with a 71-61 record and a +39 run differential. They’re two games up on the Yankees in the loss column and three games back of the Athletics for the second wildcard spot.
Even though they average 4.8 runs per game with a team 103 wRC+, Baltimore claimed Mike Morse (90 wRC+) off waivers and added him via trade this afternoon to bolster the offense for the stretch drive. It’s possible one or both of those guys will wind up playing against the Yankees this weekend. The Orioles’ only injured position player is OF Nolan Reimold (52 wRC+), who is done for the year with a knee problem.
The offensive conversation starts with 1B Chris Davis (181 wRC+) and 3B Manny Machado (111 wRC+), who lead the league in homers (47) and doubles (45), respectively. OF Adam Jones (123 wRC+) is always dangerous and OF Nate McLouth (104 wRC+) does a nice job setting the table. SS J.J. Hardy (99 wRC+) can hit the ball out of the park, if nothing else. OF Nick Markakis (88 wRC+) and C Matt Wieters (83 wRC+) are two guys who should be doing more but have simply stalled out.
2B Brian Roberts (86 wRC+) is back playing second base everyday, at least until his next injury. IF Danny Valencia (135 wRC+ in limited time) and former Yankee UTIL Wilson Betemit (-100 wRC+ in very limited time) form the DH platoon. IF Alexi Casilla (53 wRC+), OF Steve Pearce (92 wRC+ in limited time), and backup C Taylor Teagarden (26 wRC+ in limited time) round out the bench. Reminder: Rosters expand on September 1st, so expect both clubs to have some extra players come Sunday.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez
Gonzalez, 29, has been the Yankees kryptonite these last two years. He has a solid 3.77 ERA (4.32 FIP) in 22 starts (and two relief appearances) this season and a 3.54 ERA (4.34 FIP) since breaking into the league last year, but in six career starts against the Bombers he has a 2.27 ERA (~2.95 FIP). That includes last year’s ALDS. In three starts against New York this season, he’s gone at least six innings and allowed no more than two earned runs each time. The guy just dominates the Yankees.
Aside from a solid walk rate (2.85 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%), nothing about Gonzalez’s underlying performance stands out. He doesn’t miss bats (6.55 K/9 and 17.4 K%) or get ground balls (39.3%), plus he allows a bunch of homers (1.19 HR/9 and 10.8% HR/FB). Gonzalez uses low-90s two and four-seamers to set up his bread-and-butter low-80 splitter/changeup hybrid. That’s the pitch that have given the Yankees fits. A mid-80s slider and upper-70s curveball round out his five-pitch repertoire. Because of that split-change, Gonzalez has basically no platoon split. He’s solid overall and Cy Young against New York.
Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Scott Feldman
The Orioles acquired the 30-year-old Feldman from the Cubs to shore up their rotation a few weeks ago. He’s got a 3.87 ERA (3.85 FIP) in 24 total starts this year, which is pretty close to a career year for him. Feldman is a ground ball guy (49.3%) who limits walks (2.68 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%) and homers (0.87 HR/9 and 10.1% HR/FB) but doesn’t strike out many batters (6.67 K/9 and 17.7 K%). A mid-70s curveball and upper-80s/low-90s sinkers and two-seamers are his three main offerings. He will use mid-80s changeups and straight low-90s four-seamers on occasion, but not much. Sinker/curveball, basically. Feldman is another guy with no platoon split. Although they haven’t seen him since he arrived in Baltimore, the Yankees have faced Feldman a bunch of times over the years while he was with the Rangers. Some good games, some not so good.
Sunday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen
Chen, 28, is in the rookie level Gulf Coast League at the moment. The Orioles manipulated their roster this week by sending Chen down for an extra bullpen arm, but they will call him back up for this start when rosters expand on Sunday. Because the GCL season ended yesterday, they can circumvent the ten-day rule. The Yankees did something similar with Preston Claiborne. Sneaky. Chen missed a bunch of time with an oblique strain this year and otherwise has a 3.76 ERA (4.11 FIP) in 17 starts. His strikeout rate (5.81 K/9 and 15.9 K%) fell off a cliff this year, but his walk (2.48 BB/9 and 6.8 BB%), homer (1.03 HR/9 and 8.8 HR/9), and ground ball (34.3%) numbers are in line with last season, his first in MLB. Chen is a true five-pitch pitcher: low-90s four-seamer, low-90s two-seamer, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and low-80s curveball. The slider and changeup are his top offspeed offerings. It’s worth noting right-handed batters (.332 wOBA) have been far more successful (.253 wOBA) against the Taiwanese-born southpaw this summer. The Yankees have fared quite well against Chen these last two years, though he did hold them to three runs in six innings earlier this season.
Showalter had to use all of his key late-game relievers yesterday, including closer RHP Jim Johnson (3.89 FIP), who leads the league in saves (41) and blown saves (nine). Setup men RHP Tommy Hunter (3.50 FIP) and LHP Brian Matusz (3.15 FIP) also pitched yesterday. RHP Darren O’Day (3.66 FIP), RHP Francisco Rodriguez (3.95 FIP), LHP Troy Patton (4.32 FIP), and LHP T.J. McFarland (4.03 FIP) fill out the rest of the regular relievers. RHP Kevin Gausman (5.02 FIP) is the extra arm they called up using Chen’s spot.
The Yankees are coming off an off-day and their core relievers didn’t have to work too hard in the Blue Jays series either. Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, and Boone Logan are all well-rested and should be available for all three games of this super duper important series. Our Bullpen Workload page has the exact reliever usage details. The best Orioles blog around is Camden Chat.
Via Ben Badler: At some point late last year, MLB implemented a rule change that will slow down the signing process for Cuban players, possibly by as much as six months. Rather than a general unblocking license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is not a written document and did not require the player to submit anything, they now need a specific license to sign. The new license requires a written application and an individual response.
“We are doing our best to quickly process license applications and it is our goal to respond in a timely manner,” said Jeff Braunger, the program manager at OFAC. MLB changed the requirement because of concerns about how some players were able to gain residency in a foreign country after defecting. Yasiel Puig gained residency in Mexico the same month he defected while current Yankees farmhand Omar Luis gained residency in Haiti despite living and working out in the Dominican Republic. It’s the right move on MLB’s part given the legal issues but it will drag out the signing process and delay the start of these players’ careers. Not that the Yankees pursue big money Cuban players or anything. · (11) ·
Just four questions this week but they’re really good ones. The best way to send us anything is through the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.
Travis asks: Should the Yankees look to sign Scott Kazmir for 2014?
It’s hard to believe Kazmir is still only 29 years old. He won’t even turn 30 until January. Kazmir missed essentially all of 2011 and 2012 due to shoulder and back injuries before showcasing himself in an independent league. He turned a non-roster invite from the Indians into a rotation spot in Spring Training, beating out Daisuke Matsuzaka. Kazmir has pitched to a 4.25 ERA and 4.00 FIP in 125 innings across 23 starts this year, his best season since 2009 and a very impressive comeback. He deserves some major props for sticking with it.
Kazmir hasn’t gotten many ground balls (40.3%) and he has been homer prone (1.22 HR/9 and 12.2% HR/FB) this summer, but his strikeout (8.28 K/9 and 21.6 K%) and walk (2.95 BB/9 and 7.7 BB%) rates are really good. He’s handled left-handed batters very well (.242 wOBA and 2.22 FIP), righties not so much (.361 wOBA and 4.80 FIP). After all the injuries, the thing you worry about most is the quality of his stuff. He uses his two-seam fastball far more than four-seamer at this point and the velocity has been fine all year:
It’s not the blazing upper-90s heat he had back in the (Devil) Rays days, but that will work. His trademark slider averages 82.8 mph and more importantly, PitchFX says it’s averaging 4.6 inches of movement overall. That’s in line with 2007-2009 (the first years of PitchFX) and better than what he showed in 2010. Having seen him pitch a few times this year, I’m comfortable saying it isn’t the same wipeout slider that helped him lead the AL in strikeouts at age 23. The pitch is more effective than it has been in years, however. Kazmir also works with an upper-70s/low-80s changeup.
When I first read the question, my initial reaction was “no way.” I mean, c’mon. It’s Scott Kazmir. He hasn’t been effective in like forever. But, when I saw that he was missing bats, limiting walks, sustaining his fastball velocity, and getting more break on his slider, I have to say that I’m intrigued. I would be very skeptical about giving him a multi-year contract though. Yes, he is only 29, but he’s got an ugly (arm) injury history and he is still a homer/fly ball prone lefty with a massive platoon split. Lots of red flags. There’s a non-zero chance he could turn back into a top shelf starter, but I think you have to consider him more of a back-end guy at this point. The Yankees will need starters this winter and while Kazmir might not be the most ideal solution, he’s someone worth considering.
Damix asks: Josh Johnson was both terrible and injured this year, but given the budget and rotation uncertainty, is he worth a shot for next year?
Johnson, who turns 30 in January like Kazmir, was indeed awful (6.20 ERA and 4.61 FIP) in 81.1 innings across 16 starts for the Blue Jays this year. He missed a little more than a month with a triceps issue earlier this season and is now done for the year with a forearm strain. Johnson had Tommy John surgery way back in 2007 (has it really been that long already? geez) and missed most of 2011 with shoulder inflammation. He had a 3.81 ERA and 3.41 FIP in 191.1 innings with the Marlins last summer, and that’s the guy Toronto was hoping they’d get in 2013.
Unlike Kazmir, Johnson is injured right now and will head into the free agent market as an unknown. There’s still time for Kazmir to break down, but that’s besides the point. It’s been three years since Johnson was truly dominant in a full season of work, but he did miss bats (9.18 K/9 and 21.6 K%) and get ground balls (45.1%) for the Blue Jays this year. He also gave up a ton of homers (1.66 HR/9 and 18.5% HR/FB) and got slaughtered by right-handed batters (.441 wOBA). If they could get him on a one-year contract with a low base salary and bunch of incentives, great. The Yankees won’t have a ton of money to spend under the $189M luxury tax threshold and they can’t afford to spend $10M or so on a reclamation project pitcher. They need some more certainty.
Michael asks: Please give me a statistical reason to think that Dante Bichette Jr. is not done as a prospect.
First things first: statistics are just a small part of the prospect pie. The further you get away from the big leagues, the less meaningful the stats become. The scouting report should always come first in my opinion.
That said, it’s tough to defend DBJ at this point. He hit .248/.322/.331 (84 wRC+) with three homers in 522 plate appearances for Low-A Charleston last season, was sent back there this year, and responded by hitting .210/.291/.322 (80 wRC+) with ten homers in 470 plate appearances. The increase in power (.083 vs. .112 ISO) comes with an increase in strikeouts (18.0 vs. 24.0 K%). Bichette, a righty bat who turns 21 next month, managed a .250/.319/.440 line in 94 plate appearances against lefties this year, so I guess that’s the reason to think he’s still a prospect. He was productive against southpaws. Things are looking grim, but I wouldn’t write him off yet at this age.
Stephen asks: Half-embarrassed to admit this, but I had no idea Alfonso Soriano was close to 400 homeruns. I figured at the end of his career he may be closing in on that, but at this point, he is close to making 500 a real possibility. Is Soriano a Hall of Famer? I have honestly never even considered the possibility because he has only had two really good years, but his career numbers are pretty solid. He’ll also probably get his 300th stolen base in the next year or two as well.
Soriano hit his 400th career homer on Tuesday night, making him only the 43rd player in history with 2,000 career hits and 400 homers. He’s only the sixth with those two milestones plus 250 career steals. Only 24 of those 43 players are in the Hall of Fame, but I count ten more who will be or should be enshrined at some point: Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and Mike Piazza. A few others are on the bubble. Obviously guys like Bonds, A-Rod, and Manny have no prayer of getting into the Hall at this point, but their bodies of work are Hall of Fame worthy.
Anyway, out of those 43 players in the 2,000-hit/400-homer club, Soriano’s career 28.2 WAR ranks … 43rd. I guess that makes sense since he just joined the club, but it goes to show how much of his offensive value was squandered on defense over the year. Soriano should zoom passed Paul Konerko (28.7 WAR) at some point, but the next guy on the list is Carlos Delgado (44.4 WAR). That would be very hard to do at age 37 (38 in January). He hasn’t hit fewer than 20 homers since his rookie year in 2001 and even though he’s about to have his second consecutive 30+ homer season, it will probably take him at least four and possibly five seasons to get to 500 career. Even if he does, I don’t think 500 homers is an automatic ticket into the Hall of Fame anymore.
I remember being so enthralled by Soriano when he first broke into the league because he was this rail-thin guy who huge power and big speed. He was so exciting. It’s hard to believe his career is coming to an end now and even harder to believe how much he’s accomplished. Four-hundred homers? Two-thousand hits? Almost 300 steals? Did anyone realistically think that was possible when he was a rookie? Crazy. Soriano is a career .272/.321/.504 (113 OPS+) hitter who’s had a brilliant career. A brilliant career at is just short of Cooperstown worthy in my eyes.