Game 23: May Day

This is fine. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
This is fine. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Today is the start of a new month and that means a fresh start for the Yankees. Heck, at this point I’ll consider just about anything a fresh start. A new series, a new week, whatever. The Yankees have stunk of late and there’s nothing they can do about it now. The losses are in the books. All they can do is turn the page and start winning some games.

We all know the story by now, right? The offense has been terrible and the rotation has been hit or miss at best. They need to see more consistency from both. The good kind of consistency, I mean. The offense has been consistent of late. Consistently crappy. Anyway, here is the BoSox’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. RF Aaron Hicks
  8. SS Ronald Torreyes
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Now, the bad news: the weather forecast is pretty ugly tonight. It’s been raining in Boston most of the evening and right now the internet tells me it’s supposed to continue raining on and off right through tomorrow morning. For a while this afternoon it appeared there would be a window to play, but I guess that changed. We’ll see. The game is scheduled to begin at 8pm ET and you can watch on ESPN. Enjoy.

DotF: Rogers strikes out nine in Tampa’s loss

Triple-A Scranton (1-0 loss to Rochester)

  • LF Ben Gamel: 0-4, 1 K
  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-3, 1 BB — six strikeouts in his last seven games (20.0 K%), so hopefully he’s trending in the right direction
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 K — threw a runner out at second … he’s gone 4-for-15 (.267) since coming back from the hand injury
  • DH Nick Swisher: 0-4, 1 K
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-4, 1 K
  • 3B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4 — 7-for-24 (.292) during his six-game hitting streak
  • RHP Anthony Swarzak: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 8/9 GB/FB — 70 of 103 pitches were strikes (68%) … I thought maybe there was a chance he would get called up today after the bullpen threw 98 pitches last night, but nope

[Read more…]

Caught In Between

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

In the outfield on a fly ball or line drive, in the infield on a hop, or at the plate anticipating a pitch, being caught in between rarely yields positive results. Sure, you can make a recovery from a bad read, make a diving stop on a grounder, or foul off what you thought was a breaking ball but was really a fastball, but those are the exceptions to the rule; nine times out of ten, the ball will sail over your head, skip over your shoulder, or be strike three, sending you back to the dugout looking just as foolish as if you misplayed a ball or got a bad hop. Being caught in between during the course of a game is bad; being caught in between in the roster-building process is even worse.

Whether on here through the offseason or on Twitter during April’s struggles for the Yankees, I’ve maintained a fairly positive view of the team. And in general, I still hold to that; I think they’ll wind up in the wildcard game again, though that’s getting harder and harder to justify as the team continues to not score at a prolific pace. But given the way this team is built right now, where they are now–right in between–is just about where they should be.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Is it possible that 2015 was the one out of ten I referred before? Is that season the diving catch? The lucky grab? The desperate foul-off? Since 2013, the Yankees have been attempting a rebuild-while-still-competing thing that has gone better than most teams’ attempts at that have, as they’ve managed to win 80something games each time and generally avoid being a complete embarrassment. That’s good enough for mediocrity, but it’s not good enough for future strength and it’s not good enough for present results.

The rebuild has been caught in between, despite the ostensibly admirable goal of looking to get younger and more flexible. After 2013, the Yankees could’ve kept to that and their goal of spending less money, but they went out and signed Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran instead of retaining their own player in Robinson Cano. Not wanting to sign Cano to a ten-year contract is completely defensible and I understand why the Yankees didn’t, especially in a post-Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols deals world. But to follow that up with signing three expensive players–one of whom has been borderline disastrous thus far–is the height of cognitive dissonance and a sign of a lack of commitment to a plan. If you’re going to spend, spend wisely. If you’re not going to spend, just don’t spend.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

For a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in two of the last three years, the Yankees have surprisingly little to show for it. They haven’t drafted high. They don’t have a stocked farm system with prospects ready to make an impact with a reasonable chance of sustaining that impact, though, in fairness, that stems from their years of legitimate contention between 2009-2012. But at the same time, their Major League team isn’t quite good enough to compete for a championship. I’m not saying championship or bust; hat mindset led to a completely barren farm system and a fanbase that’s seemingly unwilling to sit through a rebuild. However, what satisfaction is there in being perpetually just good enough to compete for the wildcard?

It’s time for the Yankees to move out of being caught in between. Either flex the financial muscle that is so much stronger than any other team’s and be that behemoth of the past, or commit to an actual rebuild. No more half measures.

DotF: Gamel and Judge go deep in Scranton’s loss

Triple-A Scranton (7-5 loss to Rochester)

  • LF Ben Gamel: 2-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 SB — 10-for-22 (.455) during his six-game hitting streak
  • DH Aaron Judge: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K — 5-for-12 (.417) with two doubles and a homer in three games since a 1-for-16 (.063) slump
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 0-4, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • C Gary Sanchez & 1B Nick Swisher: both 1-4 — Swisher missed a catch for an error
  • 3B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 R — hitting .218/.279/.256 through 20 games
  • RF Cesar Puello: 3-4, 1 RBI, 1 SB, 1 E (fielding)
  • LHP Richard Bleier: 4 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 8/3 GB/FB — 47 of 81 pitches were strikes (58%)
  • LHP James Pazos: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 0 K, 0/4 GB/FB — 22 of 42 pitches were strikes (52%) … 12 walks and 12 strikeouts in 12 innings, which is, uh, bad
  • RHP Conor Mullee: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 12 of 22 pitches were strikes (55%)

[Read more…]

Another night, another loss, another new low; Yankees fall 8-0 to Red Sox

For the first time since September 2013, the Yankees have lost a series at Fenway Park. Saturday night’s 8-0 loss to the Red Sox was New York’s fourth straight loss and 12th in their last 16 games. It was more of the same: no offense and mediocre to bad pitching. The Yankees: they’re bad. Real bad. They’re setting a new low every night it seems.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Two-Out Damage
If there were only two outs per inning, Michael Pineda would be a pretty great pitcher. Red Sox batters went 0-for-10 with two walks when there were fewer than two outs in the inning Saturday night, then went 5-for-10 with a walk and two doubles with two outs. A single and back-to-back doubles — all with two outs, of course — led to Boston’s two runs in the second. To be fair, the second double was a bloop to right most non-Carlos Beltran outfielders catch.

Two-out base-runners were not Pineda’s only problem Saturday night. His pitch count got elevated in a hurry too. Here are his pitch counts by inning:

First: 28
Second: 25 (53 total)
Third: 24 (77 total)
Fourth: 15 (92 total)
Fifth: 14 (106 total)

Brutal. Pineda faced 23 batters overall and 12 saw at least five pitches in their at-bats. Eight saw at least six pitches. BoSox batters piled up 21 foul balls, which is a ton. Give them credit, they made Pineda work hard. The Red Sox don’t lead the league in runs by accident. They know how to grind out at-bats.

Pineda’s final line: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K. It was his second start with three walks this season after never once walking three batters in 40 starts from 2014-15. I think Pineda deserves a lot of credit for grinding through five innings after all those pitches in the first and second (and third) innings. He really battled. Classic bend but do not break outing.

Oh You Thought They Would Score?
The Yankee offense, both Saturday night and throughout the season, can be summed up with this GIF:

Family Guy

Ineptitude at its finest. The Yankees were held to five singles and one walk in nine offensive innings Saturday. (Emphasis on offensive, hiyo!) They had one runner reach third base and one other runner reach second base. That’s it. The top five hitters in the lineup went a combined 1-for-20 (.050). Beltran had the one hit. Bad. Bad bad bad.

The Yankees had their best chance to score in the fifth inning, when Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley (!) strung together back-to-back singles with two outs to put runners on the corners for Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury grounded out weakly to second to end the inning. The Yankees also had runners on first and second with two outs in the second, but Gregorius grounded out.

Over their last 17 games — this dates back to the end of the Tigers series — the Yankees are hitting .216/.284/.318 as a team. They’re averaging 2.29 runs per game and I’m surprised it’s that high. No one in the lineup is hot right now. I guess maybe Starlin Castro is hitting well, but that’s it. Everyone else is in some kind of funk and is contributing nothing more than the occasional base hit. They’re bad and they’re boring. This is the least enjoyable stretch of baseball I’ve seen since the early-1990s.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Now The Bullpen Is Bad Too
Pineda managed to hold the Red Sox to two runs in five innings, and even with the offense struggling the way it has, that’s not terrible. It’s still a ballgame at 2-0. The bullpen wiped that all away though. Four relievers combined to allow six runs on eight hits and three walks in the final three defensive innings. They threw 98 total pitches.

Chasen Shreve allowed a run(s) for the third time in his last four outings, and in the one scoreless outing he faced one batter and threw literally one pitch. A four-pitch walk to Brock Holt set up Jackie Bradley Jr. for the RBI triple in the sixth. Kirby Yates then came and allowed an infield single to Mookie Betts to score Bradley, making it 4-0 Red Sox. Both insurance runs in that sixth inning scored with two outs, of course.

It seems every young Yankee pitcher has to give up a home run to David Ortiz to officially “make it,” and Johnny Barbato got his out of the way in the seventh inning. I guess down four runs in the late innings is a good time to give it up. He was charged with four runs in two-thirds of an inning thanks in part to Nick Goody. Barbato, like Shreve, has allowed run(s) in three of his last four outings. He threw nine innings in the first 14 games and hasn’t seemed right since.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

At 8-14, the Yankees are off to their worst start since 1991. That 1991 team, as you youngins may not know, was awful. So is this 2016 team. Aside from Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller in the late innings, this team doesn’t seem to do anything well. (Yes, I know Betances gave up the homer Friday. Eat me.)

During this ugly 4-12 stretch, the Yankees have scored more than three runs runs twice, and they’ve been held to two runs or fewer eleven times. Yuck. They’ve scored 74 runs in 22 games overall. Last year they scored their 74th run in their 15th game. Heck, the crappy 2013 Yankees scored their 74th run of the season in their 15th game as well.

And finally, we got about a half-inning’s worth of anti-Comcast propaganda in the third inning. This was the first WPIX game of the season, so everyone in the Tri-State Area was able to watch, and YES took the opportunity to deliver the message. Given the way the Yankees have been playing, I’d say Comcast customers are the lucky ones.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score and for the video highlights. Here are the updated standings and our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Now here’s the ol’ loss probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Red Sox will wrap up this series on Sunday Night Baseball, though the weather forecast is pretty grim, so the game may be in jeopardy. We’ll see. The Yankees have already had two games rained out this month already. Nathan Eovaldi and David Price are the scheduled starters.

Game 22: No Use For A Title

Save us, Rod. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Save us, Rod. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

I’m running out of ways to say the Yankees really need to start scoring runs, so: the Yankees really need to start scoring runs. They’re hitting .220/.292/.328 as a team in the last 16 games and only twice in those 16 games did they score more than three runs. They scored six runs once and four runs once. Ten times they’ve score two runs or fewer. Ten!

The offense has been gross. Michael Pineda hasn’t been a whole better. In fact, I’m revoking the Big Mike moniker until further notice. Twenty-seven strikeouts and five walks is great! Thirty hits and seven homers in 22 innings is not. Pineda has a 5.35 ERA (4.19 FIP) in 24 starts and 136.1 innings since his 16-strikeout game last year. That’s bad. Legit bad. The pitcher former known as Big Mike is one of many Yankees who have to get their act together. Here is the BoSox’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. DH Alex Rodriguez
  6. C Brian McCann
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Chase Headley
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s a bit cloudy and cool in Boston, but otherwise the weather is pretty nice. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:10pm ET and you can watch on WPIX locally and MLB Network nationally. First WPIX game of the year, no? Try not to throw your remote at the TV.

Saturday Links: All-Star Game, Ellsbury, Prospects, DL

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

The Yankees and Red Sox continue their weekend series tonight at Fenway Park. Man, I hate Saturday night games. The game isn’t even on FOX but I blame them anyway. Blah. Anywho, here are some links to help you pass the time until first pitch.

2016 All-Star Game voting underway

It’s that time of the year again. Fan voting for the 2016 All-Star Game starters is underway and yes, it is ridiculously early. It is every year. Here’s the ballot. You’re allowed to vote up to 35 times per email address and the voting doesn’t end until June 30th, so you’ve got plenty of time to vote for Chase Headley over and over again.

Teams game-planning for Ellsbury’s catcher interferences

Already three times this season Jacoby Ellsbury has been awarded first base on a catcher’s interference. That’s unusual — there have been only three other catcher’s interference calls in all of baseball this season — but not for Ellsbury. Since 2008, his first full season, his 17 catcher’s interference calls are the most in baseball. No one else has more than 13.

Those 17 career catcher’s interference calls are fourth most in history, behind Pete Rose (29), Dale Berra (18), and Julian Javier (18). Ellsbury has proven to be so proficient at getting catcher’s interference calls that teams are now game-planning for it. From Jared Diamond:

It’s happened enough that Ellsbury has earned a reputation around the league. Hector Ortiz, the catching instructor for the Texas Rangers, said he normally teaches his catchers to set up at an arm’s length behind the batter. When the Yankees came to town this week, Ortiz took special care to warn his players about Ellsbury’s strange talent, and to prepare for it.

“If you’ve got a guy that is consistently dropping the head of the bat that way, then we want to be an arm and a half,” said Ortiz. “You talk about it, to get away. They move back and they stay away from that.”

I don’t think anyone is accusing Ellsbury of hitting the catcher’s mitt on purpose. That’s just his swing path and the way he lets the ball travel deep in the zone. Opponents are game-planning for it not only to keep Ellsbury off base, but also keep their catchers healthy. They don’t want anyone to reach out too far and wind up with broken fingers. What a weird skill.

Three Yankees among top 20 DSL/VSL prospects

Earlier this month the great Ben Badler posted his annual look at the top 20 prospects from the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues last season. It’s not a ranking, just an alphabetical list of 20 names. The Yankees have three of the top 20 thanks to the 2014-15 international spending spree. The article is behind the paywall, so I can’t give away too much. Here are the nuts and bolts:

  • SS Diego Castillo: “Castillo was one of the most polished, fundamentally sound players in the 2014 signing class, with excellent instincts in all phases of the game.”
  • OF Estevan Florial: “Florial has outstanding tools, with scouts hanging 70s on his speed and arm strength in center field. He has good bat speed and plus raw power, ranking second in the league in slugging.”
  • 3B Nelson Gomez: “Gomez (is) a physical righthanded hitter with huge raw power, though a lot of scouts were skeptical whether his swing-and-miss tendencies would allow his power to translate against live pitching.”

Castillo, 18, hit .331/.373/.444 (130 wRC+) in 56 DSL games last year. He signed for $750,000 and is a personal favorite as a deep sleeper. I’m a sucker for guys who are polished and instinctual at such a young age. Castillo should come stateside later this summer and play with one of the rookie Gulf Coast League affiliates, so prepare to hear much more about him in the coming weeks and years.

MLBPA pushing for 7-day DL

According to Joel Sherman, the MLBPA plans to push for a 7-day DL as part of the next round of Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations with MLB. Right now the league has 15-day and 60-day disabled lists, as well as a special 7-day DL for concussions only. That 7-day DL comes with all sorts of concussion protocol, including approval from MLB’s medical director before the player can be activated.

Sherman says the union has pushed for a 7-day DL in the past, though it never received approval from the owners. Apparently there’s concern teams would manipulate the system, perhaps by putting a starting pitcher on the 7-day DL to gain an extra roster spot when he isn’t scheduled to pitch for a few days. I could totally see the Yankees doing something like that with a sixth starter, couldn’t you?

There is a 7-day DL in the minors, and once upon a time MLB had 10-day and 21-day disabled lists. There’s nothing special about 15 days. It’s just a round number. I’m in favor of a shorter DL to give teams some more flexibility — the Yankees played with a 23-man roster for a few days this week because Alex Rodriguez and Aaron Hicks were banged up — though I understand there are some things to work out. It’s not quite as simple as it seems.