9/8 to 9/10 Series Preview: Texas Rangers

Gallo. (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Gallo. (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees played host to the Rangers from June 23 through June 25, and dropped two of three. That series was in the midst of the Yankees roughest stretch of the season, when they went 7-18 in their last 25 games of the first half. Some notes:

  • The first game was incredibly tense, with the teams trading zeroes for the first 8 innings. Elvis Andrus scored on a passed ball to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the top of the ninth, but Brett Gardner tied it up with a home run in the bottom of the frame. Ronald Torreyes was the next hero up, with a walk-off, two-out single in the bottom of the 10th.
  • Masahiro Tanaka‘s start in that game shouldn’t be understated, though – he went 8 scoreless, allowing just 3 runs and 2 walks, while striking out 9.
  • Texas won the second game 8-1, and the Yankees offense was shut down by Austin Bibens-Dirkx for 7 innings. That was also Tyler Clippard‘s third straight abomination of an appearance, in which he allowed 3 hits, 4 runs, and 2 walks in a single inning. Moving on…
  • Michael Pineda had an awful start in game three, allowing 7 runs in 4 innings. Two start later he would leave the game early, only to be diagnosed with a torn UCL shortly thereafter. The Yankees lost that game 7-6.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun facts.

Injury Report

Adrian Beltre, the latest entrant to the 3,000 hit club, was placed on the 10-day DL on September 3 with a hamstring strain, so he won’t be available for this series; there are some rumblings that he may be done for the season. Relievers Matt Bush and Keone Kela are on the disabled list, as well, and neither is expected to be back for this series.

Nomar Mazara left the team’s last game with quadriceps tightness. No announcement has been made, regarding a stint on the DL, but he’s questionable for tonight’s game.

Their Story So Far

The Rangers are currently 70-69, and within a couple of games of the second Wild Card spot. Their +42 run differential is good for 10th in the majors, which is something of a testament to how unlucky they’ve been this season. That run differential leads to a Pythagorean record of 73-66, which would have them in the driver’s seat right now. Of course, that ignores several mitigating factors – but they have been a bit snake-bitten this season.

Despite floating around .500 throughout the season and remaining within striking distance of the playoffs, the Rangers elected to sell at the trade deadline. They sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers and Jonathan Lucroy to the Rockies, and caught a bit of flack for the returns. Darvish yielded Willie Calhoun (a top-75ish prospect with a big bat and no position) and not much else, and Lucroy was essentially given away for a player to be named later.

The Lineup We Might See

The Rangers lineup has been in a state of flux for much of the season, due to both injuries and poor performance. They also utilize a couple of platoons. With a couple of righties starting today and tomorrow, though, this is what we’ll probably see:

  1. Delino DeShields, LF – .280/.357/.382, 4 HR, 28 SB
  2. Shin-Soo Choo, DH – .263/.365/.415, 18 HR, 12 SB
  3. Elvis Andrus, SS – .304/.345/.494, 20 HR, 24 SB
  4. Nomar Mazara, RF – .259/.334/.439, 18 HR, 2 SB
  5. Carlos Gomez, CF – .251/.339/.462, 17 HR, 13 SB
  6. Joey Gallo, 3B – .211/.336/.561, 37 HR, 7 SB
  7. Mike Napoli, 1B – .196/.290/.437, 29 HR, 1 SB
  8. Rougned Odor, 2B – .213/.255/.410, 28 HR, 14 SB
  9. Robinson Chirinos, C – .259/.367/.536, 16 HR, 1 SB

With CC Sabathia taking the mound on Sunday, Choo will likely be on the bench, with Napoli shifting to DH and Will Middlebrooks (.429/.429/1.000 in 7 PA) taking over at first.

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (8:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Martin Perez

We are only seven years removed from Martin Perez being one of the most highly-touted pitching prospects in the game, when he peaked as Baseball America’s 17th overall prospect. He was only 19 then, and he was an ace in the making. He’s still only 26, but he has yet to look the part, posting a 4.43 ERA (99 ERA+) in parts of six seasons. Perez has made 27 starts of 4.87 ERA (96 ERA+) ball this year, with a well below-average 14.2% strikeout rate. And, as young as he is, it’s difficult to look at his lack of progress and expect much more going forward.

Perez is a four-pitch guy, featuring a low-to-mid 90s four-seamer, a low-to-mid 90s sinker, a low-80s slider, and a mid-80s change-up. He’ll sprinkle in a curveball every now and again, but he’s largely shelved it over the last few months.

Last Outing (vs. LAA on 9/3) – 6.0 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 4 K

Saturday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Andrew Cashner

The Rangers signed Cashner to a 1-year, $10 MM deal fairly early in the off-season, which was viewed as a head-scratching move by some. It was a low-risk deal, to be sure, but he was a pitcher with a scary injury history coming off of a bad season, and the Rangers were looking to compete. That deal looks fantastic in hindsight, as Cashner is currently 5th in the AL with a 142 ERA+, and 6th with 4.4 bWAR. He missed a few starts with injuries, as per usual, but he has been quite good when he steps on the mound – and he now seems like a lock for a qualifying offer.

Cashner is a five-pitch guy, though he varies his arsenal from outing-to-outing. He throws a mid-90s four-seamer, a low-90s cutter, a high-80s cutter, a mid-80s change-up, and a low-80s curve.

Last Outing (vs. ATL on 9/4) – 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K

Sunday (3:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP A.J. Griffin

Reviewing Griffin’s stat line is a fine reminder of just how elevated offensive levels are this season. His 5.09 ERA is good for a 92 ERA+, whereas last year’s 5.07 ERA translated into an 89 ERA+; and he pitched for the Rangers in both seasons. Griffin is a flyball pitcher (just 27.5% grounders this year) with below-average strikeout numbers in a hitter’s park. That’s not a great recipe for success.

Griffin is a three-ish pitch junkballer. He mostly throws a high-80s four-seamer, a low-80s change-up, and a high-60s curveball. He’ll also flash a mid-80s cutter, but that’s more of a show-me pitch than anything else.

Last Outing (vs. LAA on 9/2) – 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K

The Bullpen

Closer Matt Bush and set-up man Keone Kela are both on the DL as of this morning, so the bullpen isn’t in great shape right now. And the bullpen wasn’t particularly strong to begin with, checking-in within the bottom third of the majors in ERA, FIP, K%, BB%, bWAR, fWAR, and WPA.

Tony Barnette has served as the closer since those two went down, and he’s 2-for-2 in save opportunities. He has a 4.91 ERA (95 ERA+) in 51.1 IP. Jason Grilli (6.46 ERA in 39.0 IP) is the set-up man for the time being, with Jose Leclerc (4.32 ERA in 41.2 IP) and Alex Claudio (2.33 ERA in 69.2 IP) also chipping in in the late innings. Tyson Ross was moved to the bullpen at the end of August, as well – he allowed 3 hits and 2 runs in 0.2 IP in his first relief appearance.

Who (Or What) To Watch

The Rangers currently have two hitters with 25-plus home runs and a negative fWAR, in Mike Napoli and Rougned Odor. That’s not necessarily something to watch, but it’s endlessly fascinating to me. They’ve combined to hit .205/.270/.422 in 1050 PA thus far.

I compared Joey Gallo and Aaron Judge last time around, and they’ve trended in opposite directions since then. Gallo is batting .236/.402/.649 (168 wRC+) with 18 HR since they last met; Judge, on the other hand, is at .209/.380/.412 (112 wRC+) and 12 HR. Perhaps Judge can take this opportunity to get his mojo back…

Next week’s Yankees vs. Rays series moved to Citi Field due to Hurricane Irma

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

4:28pm ET: The Rays have officially announced the site change. Monday’s and Tuesday’s games will begin at 7pm ET. Wednesday’s game is a getaway day 1pm ET start. Ticket information will be announced at a later time.

2:20pm ET: Next week’s three-game series against the Rays has been moved from Tropicana Field to Citi Field due to Hurricane Irma, reports Joel Sherman. Ken Rosenthal and Marc Topkin have the news too, so while MLB hasn’t announced it yet, it’s only a matter of time.

NYC Football Club, the MLS franchise that plays its home games at Yankee Stadium, has a game this weekend, and I assume that’s why the Rays series won’t be played in the Bronx. They won’t be able to get the field prepped in time for baseball after a soccer game Saturday.

Following this weekend’s series in Texas, the Yankees only have to make one more road trip this year, and that’s a quick three-game jaunt in Toronto. The Yankees will play 17 of their final 20 games in New York. That’s 14 games in Yankee Stadium and three in Citi Field.

Last week Hurricane Harvey forced the Astros and Rangers to play a series at Tropicana Field. Hurricane Irma, which remains very powerful despite being downgraded to a Category 4 earlier today, is expected to hit Miami this weekend, and impact all of Florida.

All of the ticket and concession sales proceeds from last week’s Astros-Rangers series in Tampa were donated to the hurricane relief effort. Hopefully the same happens with the series in Citi Field as well.

Yankeemetrics: Breaking the Camden Yards Curse (Sept. 4-7)

(AP)
(AP)

No sleep, no problem
Fresh off an inspiring series win over the Red Sox, the Yankees started the first leg of their grueling nine-game, three-city road trip under less-than-ideal conditions. Not only did they arrive in Baltimore in the wee hours of Monday morning for an afternoon game, but the Charm City has been a nightmare locale for them in recent years. They entered this series 9-24 on the road vs. the Orioles since the start of the 2014 season, easily their worst road mark against any AL team over the past four seasons.

Yet, despite their sleep deprivation and terrible record at Camden Yards, the Yankees stayed hot and got a critical win against one of the teams chasing them in the crazy AL wild card race. It was another come-from-behind victory as they trailed 3-0 after two innings, then rallied with seven unanswered runs in the middle innings en route to the 7-4 final.

Didi Gregorius sparked the comeback with a two-run blast in the fourth inning, his 20th homer of the season, which matches his career-high set last year. Even more impressively, Didi became the first shortstop in franchise history with back-to-back 20-homer seasons. He’s also put himself in the conversation as one of today’s elite shortstop sluggers too: the only other major-league shortstop to hit 20-plus dingers in both 2016 and 2017 is the Astros’ Carlos Correa.

Starlin Castro capped off the rally with a tie-breaking two-run shot in the fifth inning, his 13th home run this year, but the first one he’s hit that gave the Yankees a lead. It was also the fourth straight game he’s homered against the Orioles, the longest homer streak by a Yankee against them since Yogi Berra did it in 1955.

Aaron Judge didn’t participate in this home run derby but he did have a productive afternoon, getting on base five times in five plate appearances via a career-best four walks and a single. The four walks pushed him past the century mark for the season and etched his name in the record books alongside some franchise legends.

Four Yankees have hit at least 35 homers and walked 100 times in their age-25 season or younger: Aaron Judge, Mickey Mantle (1955, ’56), Lou Gehrig (1927) and Babe Ruth (1920).

Judge’s flawless performance at the plate also earned him our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series (and one of the most unique “lists” we’ve produced here). He is the fourth Yankee in the last 100 years to have four walks and a hit in a road game against the Orioles. The others: Paul O’Neill (1996), Snuffy Stirnweiss (1947) and Lou Gehrig (1932)!

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Nightmare in Charm City
It had been nearly two weeks since our latest update to the Worst Loss of the Season standings, so perhaps Tuesday’s gut-wrenching and stunning defeat was inevitable …. though that still doesn’t eliminate the frustration of yet another bullpen implosion and miserable loss.

One out away from nailing down the Yankees fourth straight win, Dellin Betances served up a hanging curveball to Manny Machado, who quickly deposited the pitch into the centerfield seats, flipping a 6-5 lead into a shocking 7-6 loss. Entering the game, opponents had slugged .127 when putting his curveball in play this season, the second-lowest mark among pitchers that had thrown at least 300 curves.

Now let’s get the straightforward gory losing details out of the way, before we dive into the #FunFact minutiae (all ranks through Tuesday’s games):

  • 23rd blown save, tied for the third-most in baseball. The only seasons in franchise history the Yankees had more were 1988 (24) and 1997 (25).
  • 24th one-run loss, the most in the American League – and twice(!) as many as they suffered last year. Yup, regression to the mean sucks.
  • Fourth loss when taking a lead into the ninth inning; that’s the same number that they piled up in the previous three seasons (2014-16) combined.

Despite their dreadful recent history of failure at Camden Yards, their latest loss here was somehow unprecedented for the Yankees in this city. It was the first time they ever lost on a two-out walk-off home run in Baltimore, and the first time ever that the Yankees lost via a game-ending homer in Baltimore when leading at the time of the blast.

If you’ve felt that this season has been one of the most excruciating ever to be a Yankee fan – with too many of those “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” games – here’s the stat that might explain it:

Tuesday’s mess was the third time this year the Yankees suffered a shocking loss on a game-ending hit when they were one out away from victory. This is the first time since at least 1930 (as far back as we can search this stat on baseball-reference.com) that the Yankees have suffered three such losses in a season.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Holy cow, they did it!
The Nightmare in Charm City has finally ended — and in typical Bronx Bomber style. Powered by four home runs, the Yankees routed the Orioles, 9-1, in Thursday’s rubber game, snapping their streak of 11 straight series lost in Baltimore. It was their second-longest road series losing streak against any opponent in team history, behind a 12-series one in Oakland from 1985-91.

How long had it been since they tasted victory there? The last time the Yankees took a series at Camden Yards, the date was on September 12, 2013, the winning pitcher in the series-clinching win was Mariano Rivera, and the winning run in that game was scored by Brendan Ryan on a wild pitch in the top of the ninth inning.

The Yankees continued their assault on Orioles pitching in 2017 (like most other teams this season), averaging a whopping 8.0 runs per game with 36 homers and a .573 slugging percentage in 15 games — each of those are their best single-season marks against the franchise since it moved to Baltimore in 1954.

Aaron Judge ignited the dinger-fueled fireworks with a majestic two-run bomb to deep right-center, his 39th of the season. That moved him into sole possession of second place on MLB’s all-time rookie home run leaderboard, trailing Mark McGwire’s 49-homer campaign in 1987. The blast also extended his personal annihilation of the O’s pitching staff: in 15 games this year, he is hitting .449 (22-for-49) with nine homers and 18 RBIs against them.

He joined Graig Nettles — who went deep 10 times against the Indians in 1974 — as the only Yankees in the Divisional Era (since 1969) with at least nine homers in a single season against one opponent. The list of Yankees to hit nine or more longballs in a season against the Orioles/Browns franchise is a good one, too: Judge, Tommy Henrich (1941), Joe DiMaggio (four times), Lou Gehrig (twice) and Babe Ruth (three times).

Mailbag: Otani, Dead Money, Frazier, Verlander, Green, Torres

We’ve got eleven questions in the mailbag this week. As always, you should send your questions to RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. I get to as many as I can, assuming I actually know the answer or can look it up.

The most fun player on Earth. (Getty)
The most fun player on Earth. (Getty)

David asks: If the Yankees acquired Otani and he was the DH on days he didn’t pitch, (1) who is a comparable hitter, (2) who is a comparable pitcher, and (3) realistically, what should fans expect as a reasonable production for a two-way player?

We still don’t know whether Shohei Otani will come over to MLB this winter and chances are we won’t know until well into the offseason. These things tend to drag out. Remember, when Masahiro Tanaka and Yu Darvish made the jump, we waited weeks to find out whether they’d actually come over. It certainly doesn’t help that MLB is reportedly pushing to renegotiate the posting system with NPB.

Anyway, the 23-year-old Otani got a late start on the season due to nagging quad and ankle injuries. He’s hitting .347/.405/.553 with 14 doubles and five homers in 168 plate appearances and has allowed eight runs in 4.2 innings on the mound. Otani hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers last year and threw 140 innings with a 1.86 ERA and a great strikeout rate (31.8%) and an okay walk rate (8.2%). Travis Sawchik spoke to someone in the know about Otani comps earlier this year:

To better understand Otani I spoke with Anri Uechi of Kyodo News, who covers Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees but also has followed the career of Otani. I asked Uechi for a comps on Otani as a pitcher and hitter. He came up with a blend of Yu Darvish — only with more velocity – and Christian Yelich. Hey, not bad.

That sounds … amazing? Yeah, amazing. For what it’s worth, Clay Davenport’s statistical translations say that .322/.416/.588 batting line in NPB last year works out to a .306/.367/.512 batting line in MLB. Yelich hit .298/.376/.483 last season, so Otani is right in the ballpark. As a left-handed hitter with power, Otani has the potential to do serious damage in Yankee Stadium. The dude certainly looks the part of the superstar, both on the mound and at the plate.

My guess is letting Otani hit will be a prerequisite for signing him, which ostensibly gives AL teams an advantage. They can let him DH between starts. My one concern is he could wear down. Would it be best to give him a full day off the day after and/or before starts? I’m not sure. Anyway, Otani won’t cost much given the international hard cap and the fact he’ll be a pre-arbitration-eligible player like everyone else. The financial risk of letting him pitch and hit is small.

At the same time, this is a super talented player, and you want to protect him physically so he can help you win as long as possible. I was on the fence about letting him hit before but I’m cool with it now. Why not? If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. My only real concern is injury and pitchers get hurt so often it’s maybe not worth worrying about. If Otani comes over this winter, the Yankees should go all out to sign him. Shovel every available international dollar in front of him, wine and dine him, let him spend time with special advisor Hideki Matsui, the works.

Alex asks: It was interesting to me to see that Cashman is personally going to Japan to watch Otani pitch. How much actual scouting does Cashman do at this point in his career compared to big picture/management stuff? How much expertise/background does he have as a scout?

Before becoming general manager, Brian Cashman worked in player development and in the scouting department, though as far as I know, he was never a scout who went around seeing players. He’s an administrator. A general manager is a manager. The Yankees have countless people working in many different departments, and Cashman manages them all. There is so much more to the job than trade this guy and sign that guy.

Anyway, Cashman may not be able to scout and evaluate Otani, but there is value to seeing him firsthand. You get to see his personality, see his work ethic, see how he responds to adversity, those sorts of things. And Cashman gets to talk to his scouts in real time and hear their opinions, and see what they’re talking about. Cashman wasn’t the only non-scout to see Otani — Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was there too, and he’s a Wall Street guy — and even if he can’t pick apart a delivery or analyze a swing, I think it’s good for your top decision maker to see a player up close, especially when he’s coming from overseas and you have limited information.

Dan asks: Do players appear in person at hearings on appeals of suspensions? Who appears on the player’s behalf – someone from the union? The team?

They can appear in person for the hearing but sometimes it’s just not possible for the player to get to MLB’s office in Midtown. Gerry Fraley explained the process last year following the Rougned Odor-Jose Bautista brawl. Here’s how the appeal works:

Odor’s representatives, the Beverly Hills Sports Council, and the Major League Baseball Players Association will handle the appeal. Bob Lenaghan, the union’s assistant general counsel, will direct the process. MLB has 14 days to schedule an appeal hearing, which can be held in person or by video conferencing.

I assume Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine were in attendance for their hearings, but you never know. Doesn’t really matter either way. I don’t think there would be more leniency because the player showed up.

Jonathan asks: Is there a stat that shows dead money for each team? I feel after next year, the Yankees will only have Ellsbury and Chapman as brutal contracts and aren’t that much worse off then most teams.

When I think of dead money, I think of paying players who no longer play for you. The Yankees are paying Alex Rodriguez $21M this season to hang out with Jennifer Lopez. That’s dead money. The Jacoby Ellsbury and Aroldis Chapman contracts don’t look great, but they’re not true dead money. They are still playing for the Yankees and providing some value.

The Yankees have roughly $27.5M of dead money on the books this year between A-Rod, Brian McCann (they’re paying $5.5M of his salary), plus the remainder of Tommy Layne‘s $1.075M salary. Here are the five non-Yankees teams with the most dead money on the books this year:

  1. Dodgers: $47.4M (Carl Crawford, Hector Olivera, Alex Guerrero, Erisbel Arruebarruena, Yaisel Sierra, Dian Toscano)
  2. Padres: $33.1M (Olivera, James Shields, Melvin Upton Jr.)
  3. Red Sox: $28.5M (Pablo Sandoval and Allen Craig)
  4. Rockies: $26.5M (Jose Reyes and Jason Motte)
  5. Angels: $22.4M (Josh Hamilton minus salary paid to Ricky Nolasco by Twins)

The Angels are paying Hamilton $24.4M to sit at home and Albert Pujols $26M to hit .244/.289/.394 (80 wRC+), so that’s probably the worst contract tandem in baseball. The Dodgers have $44.2M tied up in Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, and that’s not much better. In the grand scheme of things, the Ellsbury and Chapman contracts aren’t that bad.

Luke asks: What about the Toddfather taking Holliday’s spot on the team next year? Can play 3b, 1b, DH. He’s not perfect but seems to fit a role perfectly. Thoughts?

I think the odds of this happening are higher than maybe many fans realize, but still unlikely. I still think some team out there is going to be willing to give Todd Frazier a two or even three-year deal to be their everyday third baseman, and I don’t see the Yankees going there. Frazier seems to genuinely enjoy being a Yankee, and his ability to play two positions is quite nice. I have two problems with bringing Frazier back. One, he’s a low average hitter who hits into an awful lot of easy out pop-ups. His infield pop-up rate (20.3%) is easily the highest in baseball this year, and second highest over the last three years (18.3%). And two, he’s yet another right-handed hitter. The lineup leans a little too heavily to that side right now, and it’ll only get once worse right-handed hitters Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier (and Miguel Andujar!) force their way into the lineup.

Weird. (Lindsey Wasson/Getty)
Weird. (Lindsey Wasson/Getty)

Michael asks: Did the Yankees flub it by not claiming Verlander on waivers? If the Yankees had refused to make a trade offer, almost certainly Detroit would have pulled him back, or Verlander would have vetoed the move, and the worst case of Verlander on a 2x28M (after this year) wouldn’t be disastrous. As it is, they let Houston scoop him up and may have to face him in the playoffs.

It’s an interesting question. Of course, this also applies to the Red Sox and the Indians and the Angels and every other team with postseason hopes. I do not think the Tigers would’ve let Justin Verlander go on trade waivers for nothing. He’s a franchise icon and they wanted a real return, and hey, they got one. You always have to be prepared for the possibility that the contract gets dumped on you, though the chances of that happening seemed awfully low here. Had the Yankees or any other team claimed Verlander, the Tigers probably would’ve pulled him back, tried to work out a trade, then try again in the offseason if it didn’t work out. In hindsight, yeah, the Yankees or some other contender should’ve claimed Verlander to avoid facing him in the postseason. I’m not sure how realistic that is though, to expect a contending team to claim any player they could end up seeing in October.

Ralph asks: Now that we’ve seen Starlin Castro for two seasons, it is easy to see why he was a young all-star. It’s also easy to see why the Cubs let him go. The Benintendi slide into 2nd in the first game of the series featured Castro’s non-follow on the tag, another example of the bone-headed plays that seem to find their way to his highlight reel throughout the year. Can we really count on Castro as a core guy, or will Wade find his way there assuming some offensive improvement?

I think Castro is a really good complementary player and not necessarily a core piece, and the Yankees don’t need him to be. The core of the Yankees going forward, on the position player side, is Aaron Judge and Sanchez, and hopefully Frazier and Torres join them next season. Castro is a quality hitter by second base standards, even though he occasionally gives away at-bats. I’m not sure how much longer he’ll remain at second base though. His defense seems to have gone backwards this year. He might be a corner infielder long-term, or maybe even a DH. There’s no reason to move Castro now, but if Torres or Wade were to emerge at some point, I don’t think the Yankees would have any trouble trading Starlin. He’s a good player but probably not someone you make off-limits and build around.

Matt asks: Do you think in this day and age its finally time for the old fashioned waste pitch to die? I’m not talking about changing eye levels or setting up another pitch, but the ball so far out of the strikezone that nobody could possibly swing at it. With pitch counts and limits, it seems silly to waste pitches just so you don’t give up an 0-2 hit.

How many of those waste pitches, the pitch so far outside that no one would ever swing at it, do we even see? And how many are intentional? I feel like very, very few. Most of those are mistake pitches. In the traditional sense of the term, a waste pitch is something you throw to set the next pitch up. The fastball up and in to set up the slider down and away, for example. Those aren’t going away, even in the age of pitch counts. Take away waste pitches — it’s probably better to call them setup pitches, right? — and inevitably other pitches will lose some effectiveness. You need to be able to set one pitch up with another. It’s not a video game where you can just throw a slider in any count and get the swing you want. Waste pitches aren’t going anywhere.

Melanie asks: Can you ask Katie to run the numbers on Judge when he is up with less than two outs and runners in scoring position? It feels like that home run Sunday night was the first time he has gotten a hit in that situation in months. Even in the first half of the season. Thanks!

Lots of talk about Judge with runners in scoring position and similar situations this year, especially in the second half. Here are the numbers going into yesterday’s game:

  • Men on base: .262/.388/.561 (145 OPS+)
  • Runners in scoring position: .262/.386/.587 (150 OPS+)
  • Runner on third and less than two outs: .263/.483/.632 (155 OPS+)
  • High-leverage: .281/.400/.557 (152 OPS+)

Keep in mind there is some sample size noise here — Judge has only 29 plate appearances with a runner on third and less than two outs all season — but the numbers are pretty great. Roughly a 150 OPS+ across the board, which is right in line with his overall 154 OPS+ this season. Funny how that works. I want Judge at the plate in a big spot because in all of baseball (not only among Yankees) he is one of the hitters least likely to make an out and most likely to hit the everloving crap out out of a ball.

Dan asks: Is deception part of the reason why Chad Green‘s fastball is so untouchable? If so, what contributes to that kind of deception?

It has to be, right? Green has great velocity and a high spin rate, on par with baseball’s other top fastballs, yet no one gets as many swings and misses on that pitch as Green. It’s amazing. Green’s not super tall by pitcher standards (listed at 6-foot-3) and there’s basically no gain through extension. His average fastball velocity: 95.55 mph. His average perceived fastball velocity: 95.56 mph. Yeah. Here’s some video:

Green has a big leg lift and his arm action is long and deliberate in the back, then he explodes forward, and I think that creates the deception. The hitter keeps waiting and waiting and waiting for the pitch, then bam, it’s right on them. I imagine that contributes to Green’s effectiveness. Whatever it is, it’s working wonderfully. Green has been unreal this season.

Ryan asks: Don’t we need to pump the breaks just a little on Gleyber being reading at the start of next season? I know it is his glove hand (non throwing arm) he had to have TJS on, but doesn’t that also make it his lead arm batting, which if I’m not mistaken, is his power arm when batting. Do we have batter comps for Torres coming back with power the way we had with Bird after his, much more risky, shoulder injury in terms of power concerns?

Torres has already resumed baseball activities — he shared videos of himself hitting in the batting cage and fielding grounders within the last week — and he is expected to be ready in time for Spring Training. There are very few comps for this type of injury, though there is a good one: Zack Cozart, another right-handed hitting shortstop. Cozart had Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow in August 2011 and was ready to go for Opening Day 2012.

Torres had his surgery in June, so he has a two-month head start on Cozart. Of course the Yankees are going to play it safe with him. Those videos he posted this week? Those are surely closely monitored workouts. I don’t think there’s any chance Gleyber will break camp with the Yankees next year, not after missing half a season. I expect him to go to Triple-A to get back into the swing of things before the inevitable call-up. The injury stinks. I’m pretty sure Torres would’ve been in the big leagues right now. He’d have been up when Castro got hurt, if not sooner. What can you do though? Everyone expected Torres to come back strong and so far his rehab is going swimmingly. That’s all I need to hear.

DotF: Estrada hits for the cycle in Trenton’s postseason win

Triple-A Scranton (6-5 loss to Lehigh Valley in 12 innings, walk-off style) they trail the best-of-five first round postseason series one game to none

  • CF Mason Williams: 1-5, 1 BB
  • 2B Donovan Solano: 3-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-6, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — here’s video of the dinger
  • 1B Mike Ford: 1-6, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • LF Billy McKinney: 1-6, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — opened the scoring with a two-run homer
  • RF Jake Cave: 1-5, 3 K
  • RHP Domingo German: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 10/3 GB/FB — 54 of 82 pitches were strikes (66%) … started out great, but things unraveled in the sixth, when four of those five runs scored
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 24 of 37 pitches were strikes (65%)
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HB, 0/2 GB/FB — 23 of 42 pitches were strikes (55%) … bad things happen after leadoff walks

[Read more…]

Thursday Night Open Thread

Good win this afternoon. A win Gene Michael would’ve enjoyed. The Yankees dug in and put together some long at-bats — Kevin Gausman threw 79 pitches in three innings — and mashed the hell outta some taters. First series win in Baltimore since 2013. True story. The Yankees were basically one pitch away from a sweep too, but at least they won the series.

Here is an open thread for the night. The Mets are playing and MLB Network is showing regional games at 7pm ET and 10pm ET. Also, the NFL season begins tonight with the Chiefs and Patriots (8:30pm ET on NBC). Talk about anything here except religion and politics. Thanks.

Homers galore on a Sonny day as the Yankees beat O’s 9-1

They did it. The Yankees finally won a series at the Camden Yards. It is their first since Sept. 9-12, 2013. Phil Hughes started that series finale, David Huff relieved, Eduardo Nunez was the starting third baseman, Alfonso Soriano hit third and Mariano Rivera got the win. Since then, they lost 11 consecutive series in Baltimore… which snapped today. Thank God. Sonny Gray and the bullpen corps held the O’s hitters to one run and the lineup gathered four dingers and nine runs to make it an easy win. Good game. Would watch again.

(Robb Carr/Getty Images)
(Robb Carr/Getty Images)

The scoring

The Yankees didn’t waste any time. In the top of the first, Brett Gardner worked a walk to lead it off. The next two hitters – Chase Headley and Starlin Castro – struck out, but Gardy stole the second base to put himself in the scoring position. Didi Gregorius, today’s cleanup hitter, hit a double down the first base line to drive a run in. Aaron Judge, not to be outdone, hit a monster blast into the right-center seats for a 2-run homer. 3-0 Yankees.

Two innings later, Yankees got another rally going. Didi reached on an infield single (originally ruled an error by Tim Beckham but later changed) and Judge walked to set up a RISP situation. Matt Holliday jerked a single into right field to bring Gardy in. With runners on first and third, Jacoby Ellsbury grounded into an RBI fielder’s choice to make it 5-0 Yankees. The barrage continued on in the 4th inning. With Mike Wright pitching for the Orioles, Gardner hit a double and Headley followed it up with a two-run homer to make it a seven-run lead.

The Yankees took a break in the fifth but went right back at it in the sixth. With two outs, Castro received a Donnie Hart fastball down the zone and drove it into the home bullpen. Think you were done with home runs? Todd Frazier hit a solo homer off Richard Rodriguez in the seventh inning – his 23rd of the year.  9-1 Yankees. And that’s how the score would remain for good. Easy peasy.

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Sonny day real estate

Sonny Gray allowed the lone run in the sixth inning and it was unearned. With runners on first and second and two outs, Gray induced a grounder from Trey Mancini that should have been an easy 6-4 putout. However, Gregorius was off-balance when tossing the ball to Castro and it sailed way over his head, leading to an Oriole run.

Let’s talk about the positives. In 5.2 IP, Gray induced 10 ground outs and only 2 in the air. After allowing dinger after dinger the last start vs. Red Sox, it was pretty neat to see him get back to his ground ball-heavy game. After getting through the first three innings easily, Gray labored a bit in the last 2.2 IP, allowing a baserunner in scoring position in each frame. However, it’s hard not to chalk it up as a good start for Gray, who improved to 9-9 this season with a 3.22 ERA.

Leftovers

After Gray departed with two outs in the sixth inning, Girardi brought in Chad Green, who had thrown 36 pitches in 2.1 IP just this past Monday. With expanded rosters and a seven-run lead, Girardi maybe could have brought in someone like Ben Heller in this situation… but at the same time, Orioles lineup isn’t something to be taken lightly. That was probably the best chance that the O’s had to try to turn the game around. After blowing a 6-1 lead two days ago, I’d assume Girardi wanted no part of that possibility. Luckily, Green immediately denied the O’s by striking out Seth Smith. Green went on to take care of another inning after that. I’d have to guess Girardi will give him a rest tomorrow.

Tommy Kahnle came in the eighth inning and threw a scoreless frame. After him, the Scranton Wilkes-Barre relief ace Ben Heller actually got to pitch the ninth! He ended the game pretty swiftly, tossing a perfect, 12-pitch frame. If you missed the game, check out this snake-like fastball by Heller. It is sort of mesmerizing.

You know your offense really had it going when Austin Romine had a two-hit game. Each starter had at least a base hit (13 total). Judge stayed on-brand by hitting a homer, walking once and striking out twice. Gregorius had a particularly good day, going 3-for-5 with an RBI. Gardner, who went 2-for-3, also had two walks and saw 30 pitches total – 6 pitches per plate appearance, not bad.

Box score, video highlights, updated standings and WPA

Here are today’s box score and updated standings from ESPN, video highlights from MLB.com and WPA chart from Fangraphs.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees will head down south for a three-game series against the Rangers. Masahiro Tanaka will be up on the mound against Martin Perez on Friday night.