For the first time this season, the Yankees have lost five straight games. The Rays took Wednesday afternoon’s series finale by the score of 6-3, completing the sweep. They had baseball’s worst record coming into the series. The Yankees have now lost nine of their last eleven games are are 41-42 on the year. Stinky.
For the first time in what felt like an eternity, the Yankees actually jumped out to an early lead on Wednesday afternoon. Brett Gardner opened the day with a typically long at-bat (seven pitches) and a leadoff homer into the right field second deck off Jake Odorizzi. It was gone off the bat. No doubter. Gardner has now hit eight homers this season, tying his career-high (set last year). He’s going to wind up hitting like 12-15 dingers this summer. Crazy.
Brian McCann chipped in a solo homer of his own two innings later, a cheap little New Yankee Stadium shot just inside the foul pole down the right field line. It was a high pop-up in almost every other ballpark. Like everyone else, I expected Gardner to be hitting the cheapies and McCann to be launching bombs into the second deck coming into the year. Also, believe it or not, the Yankees have hit multiple homers in four of their last eight games. Doesn’t feel like it, right?
One inning after that, the wholly unproductive right field platoon of Alfonso Soriano (single) and Ichiro Suzuki (walk) reached base to start the inning. Soriano was in right and Ichiro was playing center. Brian Roberts lined out and Yangervis Solarte popped out, so it appeared any potential rally would go to waste. Been an awful lot of that this year. Thankfully Gardner was up next and thankfully he pulled a two-strike single through the right side of the infield to score Soriano. Brett has been the best player on the team this season and I don’t think it’s particularly close at this point.
No Lead Is Safe
The Yankees took the lead three times early in the game and Vidal Nuno gave it back almost immediately each time. The Rays scored their first run in the third inning on a leadoff walk (Ryan Hanigan), a double (Ben Zobrist), and a passed ball. They scored their second run in the fourth inning, right after McCann homered. A double by Logan Forsythe and a single by Sean Rodriguez did the trick. In the fifth — again, right after Gardner re-gave the Yankees the lead — Desmond Jennings, Zobrist, and Brandon Guyer strung together a single, a double, and a single to score another run. Guyer would have had a two-run single had Gardner not thrown Zobrist out at the plate.
All told, Nuno was charged with four runs (three earned) in five innings of work. Joe Girardi opted to send him back out to start the sixth only to yank him when the leadoff runner reached base. I hate that. If his leash is one base-runner, then just let the reliever start the inning clean. This isn’t Masahiro Tanaka. It’s Vidal Nuno and he was putting guys on base all day. Shawn Kelley took over and allowed a two-run homer to Sean freaking Rodriguez on his third pitch. Just like that, the Rays were up 5-3 and had all the runs they would need on the afternoon.
I mean, it’s no surprise Nuno did not carry his success against the Red Sox over from his last start. Everyone has a great game now and then and it doesn’t mean they’ve turned some kind of corner. Four runs (three earned) in five innings is perfectly fine from your seventh (or eighth? whatever) starter, though Nuno is third on the team in starts (14) and innings (78). That’s not good. Kelley … good grief. He has been a mess since coming off the disabled list.
Not Hitting With Runners In Scoring Position Isn’t The Problem …
… bad hitters are the problem. The Yankees went one-for-whatever (nine, actually) with runners in scoring position and stranded runners at the corners in the fifth, at first and second in the seventh, and at second in the eighth. There were some chances to tack-on runs or make the game closer, but they were unable to take advantage. Gardner’s run-scoring single in the fourth was the lone hit with men in scoring position. He had three hits while McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Roberts had two apiece as well. McCann and Ichiro drew the only walks.
The Yankees have been unable to get hits with men on base all season but that in and of itself isn’t the problem. It’s just the symptom of the real problem. They aren’t unclutch or anything silly like that. They just have too many bad hitters. That’s the problem. Even if McCann and Beltran start hitting like everyone expected them to hit, the Yankees would still have Derek Jeter, Roberts, Ichiro, Soriano, Solarte, Kelly Johnson, etc. getting regular at-bats. It’s pretty remarkable how many flat-out bad hitters are on the roster and have been all season.
The Rays made four outs on the bases. Gardner threw Zobrist out at home, Soriano threw Rodriguez out at second trying to stretch a single into a double (on the play that scored Tampa’s second run), Jeter caught Zobrist wandering too far off second base on a ground ball in the seventh, and Kevin Kiermaier was picked off first in the eighth. The Gardner and Soriano throws were good plays, the other two were gifts.
Adam Warren allowed two singles (one infield) and a walk in 1.1 innings of work. He was helped out by Zobrist’s second base-running blunder. David Huff allowed one run in 1.2 innings of mop-up duty. He was hurt by some shaky infield defense. Guyer hit a slow grounder to third that Solarte threw into right field attempting to turn the 5-4-3 double play. Somehow it was ruled it hit. What?
Michael Kay went on a pretty amusing rant about Jacoby Ellsbury‘s off-day in the first inning. He pointed out that it was Lou Gehrig bobblehead day and basically said that if Gehrig could play every single day, Ellsbury should be able to do it in the first year of his seven-year contract. It was a hoot.
According to the YES broadcast, the Yankees are now 1-32 when allowing five or more runs. This is the latest into the season the Yankees have been below .500 since they were 39-42 at the halfway point of the 2007 season. That team rallied to win the wildcard and make the postseason. That team also had good players.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
You can find the box score and video highlights at MLB.com. There are some other stats at FanGraphs and the updated standings at ESPN. Edwin Encarnacion and the Blue Jays walked off against the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon, so the Yankees are now 4.5 games back of Toronto for first place in the AL East. The Mariners beat up on the Astros, so the Bombers are five games back of the second wildcard spot.
The homestand is mercifully over and the Yankees are heading up to Minnesota for a four-game series with the Twins. Current Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka and one time projected Yankees ace Phil Hughes start things off on Friday night.
Carlos Beltran is still dealing with lingering soreness in his forearm after it forced him to shut down his throwing program last week, according to Zach Braziller. “It is frustrating,” said Beltran, “not being able to be in the field and having to deal with this and now the forearm, it takes [a lot] mentally, for me to come to the ballpark, get treatment, go to the [training room], whole routine I need to do to get ready for the game. I need to find a way to not think about it and just focus on what I need to focus on. Go out and compete and fight.”
Beltran, 37, went 3-for-4 with a double and a homer on Sunday, but is still hitting only .216/.274/.404 (81 wRC+) in 234 plate appearances this year. Coincidence or not, he’s been especially unproductive since flipping over the wall in Tampa back in mid-April. A bone spur in his elbow forced Beltran to miss about four weeks and has relegated him to full-time DH duty. At this point, getting him back into the outfield is a secondary concern. The Yankees need Beltran to start producing at the plate. Getting him (and Brian McCann) on track would have more of an impact than any trade deadline pickup, though the season is halfway complete and we still haven’t seen many signs of life. · (5) ·
The Yankees wrap up their ugly six-game homestand this afternoon, a homestand in which they won the first game (yay!) but lost the last four (boo!). They’ve lost eight of their last ten games overall while being outscored 48-31. Worst of all, all ten of those games were played against AL East rivals. The Yankees are 17-17 in their division so far this year but I don’t believe it. The standings are lying. It feels like they’re 5-29 against the AL East.
The homestand ends today and the Yankees head out on an eleven-game road trip starting tomorrow. This is the last time they play in the Bronx for 16 days, until after the All-Star break. Given their performance at home (18-22, outscored 186-144), I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. End the homestand with a win and get the hell outta here. Here is the Rays lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- C Brian McCann
- DH Carlos Beltran
- 1B Kelly Johnson
- RF Alfonso Soriano
- CF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Brian Roberts
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
LHP Vidal Nuno
It is pretty gross out in New York right now. Overcast but really hot and humid. There is also some rain in the forecast for later this afternoon, though it doesn’t look like it will impact the game unless they go to extra innings. I love watching games live and being at the Stadium, but this is one I will happily enjoy from my air-conditioned home. This afternoon’s game is scheduled to begin at 1:05pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy.
Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira had his knee drained last night and is expected to be back in the lineup tomorrow. He’s been playing through some discomfort … Jacoby Ellsbury is a “little beat up” and needs a day off, according to Joe Girardi.
The 2014 international signing period opened at 9am ET today, and, by all accounts, the Yankees are planning a massive spending spree. They have been assigned a $2.2M signing pool but are reportedly willing to spend upwards of $30M between bonuses and penalties. They’re said to have several verbal agreements already in place, many of which are individually worth more than the team’s signing pool.
The penalties for the spending spree will be pretty harsh. Not only will the Yankees have to pay a 100% tax on just about every dollar they spend, they will also not be allowed to sign any player to a bonus worth more than $300k during the next two international signing periods (2015-16 and 16-17). With rumors of an international draft continuing to circulate, this may be New York’s last chance to spend freely on amateurs.
As a reminder, these players are signing contracts for 2015. They won’t sign and report right to one of the minor league affiliates in the coming days. It’s also worth pointing out these kids are just that: kids. The majority are 16-17 years old, meaning they are a half-decade away from making their MLB debuts. If they’re like most other players, it’ll take another few years after that for them to have a real impact. These players are a long way away from helping the Yankees as anything other than a trade chip.
Our international free agency archive is right here. Both Baseball America and MLB.com recently released their lists of the top 30 available prospects, though Baseball America’s scouting reports are subscriber-only. MLB.com’s stuff — video, scouting reports, etc. — is all free. It’s pretty awesome. We’ll keep track of the team’s international signings right here throughout the day, so make sure you check back often for updates (all timestamps are ET).
- 8:01pm: McDaniel has a bunch of low-profile, small bonus signings: Venezuelan OF Leobaldo Cabrera, Venezuelan C Jason Lopez, Dominican OF Lisandro Blanco, Dominican IF Wander Hernandez, Venezuelan OF Raymundo Moreno, Dominican OF Adolfo Morillo, Venezuelan OF Pablo Olivares, Dominican C Bismar Nunez, Dominican LHP Luis Pache, Venezuelan SS Danienger Perez, and Venezuelan RHP Gilmael Troya. No word on any bonuses, but again, they’re small.
- 7:46pm: McDaniel reports the Yankees have signed 16-year-old Venezuelan OF Jonathan Amundaray for approximately $1.5M. MLB.com ranked him seventh and Baseball America ranked him 22nd. “Amundaray has good bat speed with a slight uppercut and average raw power that has a chance to be plus in the future … He has a decent stroke, but he doesn’t have an innate feel for hitting, with some length to his swing and inconsistent bat-to-ball skills,” wrote Badler.
- 7:42pm: The Yankees have signed 16-year-old Dominican OF Antonio Arias, according to Kiley McDaniel. Sanchez says the bonus is $800k. MLB.com ranked Arias as the ninth best prospect when Baseball America had him 28th. “He’s one of the better athletes in Latin America, with plus speed that he should be able to maintain as he adds weight to stay in center field … He flashes solid bat speed and power potential, but everything about Arias is physical projection,” says Badler.
- 7:03pm: The Yankees have signed 16-year-old Venezuelan RHP Servando Hernandez for $200k, reports Badler. He is not among MLB.com’s nor Baseball America’s top 30 international prospects. Hernandez “has a big, strong frame at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and touches 90-91 mph. He shows feel for his changeup and is mostly a fastball/changeup pitcher with the curveball his No. 3 pitch,” says Badler.
- 6:47pm: According to Badler, the Yankees have signed 18-year-old Korean SS Hyo-Jun Park. He got a $1.16M bonus according to Naver (translated article). Park was ranked as the 13th and 18th best prospect available by MLB.com and Baseball America, respectively. Everything you need to know about him is in this guest post from Sung-Ming Kim. Because he is 18, he can begin playing as soon as the contract is official.
- 6:36pm: The Yankees have also signed 16-year-old Venezuelan C Miguel Flames, according to Badler. Sanchez says he received a $1M bonus. Flames was considered the 16th best prospect by Baseball America and 25th best by MLB.com. “Scouts who like Flames say he hits in games and takes quality at-bats thanks to his pitch recognition and ability to stay within the strike zone,” wrote Badler, who notes Flames is a recently converted third baseman.
- 6:33pm: As expected, the Yankees have signed 16-year-old Dominican OF Juan De Leon, reports Badler. Sanchez says he received $2M. Baseball America and MLB.com rank De Leon has the second and fifth best prospect available, respectively. Badler says “De Leon has a short, efficient swing and strong wrists that help him generate the best bat speed in the class, which is why several scouts consider De Leon one of the top hitters available.”
- 3:21pm: Sanchez reports the Yankees have signed 16-year-old Venezuelan SS Wilkerman Garcia for $1.35M. Baseball America and MLB.com ranked him as the seventh and 14th best prospect on the market, respectively. “Garcia draws widespread praise for his hitting with good bat-to-ball skills and a sound swing from both sides of the plate,” wrote Badler.
- 1:40pm: The Yankees have signed 16-year-old Dominican 3B Nelson Gomez for $2.25M, reports Sanchez. He was ranked the second and sixth best prospect available by MLB.com and Baseball America, respectively. “Gomez, who trains with Victor Baez, has at least plus raw power … He has good bat speed and packs plenty of strength into a heavy, big-boned frame, putting on an impressive display in batting practice with power to all fields,” says Badler.
- 12:50pm: As expected, the Yankees have signed 16-year-old Dominican SS Dermis Garcia, according to Dionisio Soldevila. He received a $3.2M bonus after being connected to the team for weeks now. MLB.com and Baseball America ranked Garcia as the best and ninth best prospect available, respectively, with Badler saying he is “strong, generates huge loft and puts on a fireworks display in batting practice, with 70 raw power that rates as the best in the class”
- 11:25am: Jesse Sanchez reports the Yankees have signed 16-year-old Venezuelan SS Diego Castillo for $750k. He ranked 16th and 24th on MLB.com’s and Baseball America’s top 30 lists, respectively. “Castillo is one of the most intelligent players in Latin America. He slows the game down, playing calmly and under control in all phases of the game,” wrote Badler.
- 10:23am: The Yankees have signed 16-year-old Dominican OF Frederick Cuevas for $300k, reports Ben Badler. He does not rank among Baseball America’s or MLB.com’s top 30 prospects. “Cuevas is a lefty who has performed well at the plate in games with gap power. He doesn’t have a tool that jumps out and he fits best in left field,” wrote Badler.
Total Known Bonuses: $14.51M. Total Penalties: ~$12.31M. Total spent: ~$26.82M.
The losing streak has hit four and the Yankees are back at .500 with a 41-41 record. This is the latest into the season the team has been at or below .500 during the Joe Girardi era. Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Rays was a fairly straight forward “they just couldn’t get the big hit” loss.
Wait, They Scored How?
When I write these recaps, I tend to jot down notes while watching so I don’t forget stuff. Many of those notes don’t even make it into the recap, but you never know. I was at this game though, so I needed to look over the gamelog when I got home to remember exactly what happened. I remembered they scored just the one run and the box score says they went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, but wait … the one hit didn’t even score a run. Then I remembered how they scored.
David Price was not necessarily on cruise control, the Yankees did make him work a bit, but he held them scoreless in the first three innings before Derek Jeter led off the fourth with a booming double to center. The Cap’n just destroys Price for whatever reason. Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a soft line drive single to center — that was the lone hit with runners in scoring position, Jeter had to hold up because Ben Zobrist almost made the diving catch — to put runners on the corners with no outs.
Great situation, right? Well, it was until Mark Teixeira flew out to shallow right (too shallow to score Jeter) and Ellsbury got picked off first. He was dead to rights between first and second, but Zobrist’s throw hit Ellsbury in the back and allowed a) him to slide into second safely, and b) Jeter to cross the plate without a throw. That’s how the Yankees scored their one run on Tuesday. Ellsbury got picked off first and Zobrist hit him in the back with a throw during the rundown. Sigh.
It was not his prettiest start of the season, but with a short bullpen, Hiroki Kuroda gave his team eight innings of two-run ball. Logan Forsythe singled in a run in the third and James Loney hit a solo homer in the sixth, and that was it. Kuroda stranded runners on first and second in the fourth, on the corners in the fifth, and on second and third in the eighth. He had to grind a bit, yet at the end of the day he plenty effective and good enough to win.
All told, Kuroda allowed just those two runs on nine hits and one walk. He struck out seven and threw 69 of his season-high 109 pitches for strikes (63%). Twenty-one of his 24 outs were recorded on the infield. It wasn’t Kuroda at his best but in a sense it was a microcosm of his MLB career: reliable, effective, unrewarded. This poor guy never gets run support — he didn’t with the Dodgers back in the day either — yet he keeps plugging along. Kuroda now has a 3.58 ERA in his last eleven starts, by the way. He’s bounced back well from his poor April.
As usual, the Yankees did have some opportunities to plate the go-ahead or game-tying or whatever run. Teixeira lined out to left to end the first with Brett Gardner on second. Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano flew out and struck out, respectively, with a) Ellsbury on second to end the fourth, and b) Jeter on second and Teixeira on first to end the sixth. And finally, Yangervis Solarte grounded out to first to end the game with Ichiro on second and Kelly Johnson at first. The four through eight hitters went a combined 0-for-17 with three walks. Gross.
Jeter had two of the team’s four hits. His fourth inning double was the 534th of his career, which tied him with Lou Gehrig for the most in franchise history. As Jeff Quagliata points out, Price has now given up Jeter’s 3,000th hit, the hit that moved Jeter into a tie with Willie Mays on the all-time list, the hit that tied Jeter with Gehrig for the most in Old Yankee Stadium history, and the double that moved Jeter into a tie with Gehrig for the most in team history. “I feel like if I had (to face) a lineup full of 40-year old Derek Jeters, I might not make it through the fifth,” said Price to Bryan Hoch after the game.
The Yankees struck out eleven times as a team and it was only their third time with double-digit strikeouts in their last 25 games. That includes extra-inning games. Strikeouts are at an all-time high right now but the club has an 18.5% strikeout rate overall, the fifth lowest in baseball. Putting the ball in play isn’t a problem. The quantity of contact is fine, the quality of contact is not. Price struck out nine and had his streak of consecutive starts with 10+ strikeout snapped at five. The last to do that was vintage Johan Santana back in 2004.
Kuroda’s eight innings spared the bullpen one day after the 12-inning game. David Huff was the only reliever used and he retired the side on 15 pitches. He hit 95.0 mph (!) with his fastball according to PitchFX. What in the world is that about? Maybe it’s time to see what Huff can do in a one-inning, air-it-out role? Maybe he’ll turn into the left-handed version of Adam Warren.
Last but unfortunately not least, the Yankees are now 18-22 at Yankee Stadium this season. They’ve been outscored 186-144 and out-homered 57-45 in the Bronx. I shouldn’t be looking forward to seeing this team go out on an extended road trip at the end of the week, but here we are.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has some additional stats, and ESPN has the updated standings. Both the Orioles and Blue Jays won, so the Yankees are 3.5 games back of Toronto and 2.5 games back of Baltimore. They’re four games back of the second wildcard spot.
The Yankees will look to avoid being swept on Wednesday afternoon — yes, it’s an afternoon game — in their final home game before the All-Star break. Vidal Nuno and Jake Odorizzi will be the pitching matchup. If you want to see that one live, head over to RAB Tickets.
Triple-A Scranton (3-2 loss to Lehigh Valley)
- RF Jose Pirela: 2-5, 1 K
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — second homer in his last three games
- 1B Kyle Roller: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 K
- C John Ryan Murphy: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 PB — over/under on games left in the organization is set at 20.5
- 3B Scott Sizemore: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K
- DH Austin Romine: 0-4, 2 K
- RHP Alfredo Aceves: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 7/4 GB/FB – 63 of 90 pitches were strikes (70%)
- SwP Pat Venditte: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 30 of 53 pitches were strikes (57%) … 57/13 K/BB in 47.2 innings
Tonight marks the start of the second half of the 2014 season. The first half was not great and also not a disaster for the Yankees. It wasn’t even good. Not bad either. Acceptable. Tolerable. Middle of the road. They didn’t run away with anything and they didn’t get buried in the standings. The second half has to be better if they want to contend in Derek Jeter‘s final season. That’s not really up for debate. Let’s start the rest of the season with a much-needed win tonight, shall we? Here is the Rays lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- DH Carlos Beltran
- RF Alfonso Soriano
- 2B Brian Roberts
- C Frankie Cervelli
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
It’s cloudy but otherwise a fine day here in New York. No weather problems for tonight’s game. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.
Injury Update: CC Sabathia (knee) will make his rehab start with Double-A Trenton tomorrow rather than Thursday. Seems like they pushed it up a day due to the weather forecast. Sabathia threw only 36 pitches in his first rehab start on Saturday, so starting on three days’ rest isn’t a huge deal.
The Yankees have called up right-hander Jim Miller from Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. Righty Jose Ramirez was sent down in a corresponding move. The Yankees needed to add a fresh arm after burning through their bullpen in extra innings last night. CC Sabathia was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot.
Miller, 32, has a 2.85 ERA (3.11 FIP) in 41 Triple-A innings this season. He appeared in one game with the Yankees last September, allowing three runs in 1.1 innings. Ramirez showed a very live arm in his limited time with the team but was erratic, which is not uncommon for young pitchers. Some more time in Triple-A won’t be the end of the world. · (15) ·
I was only partially paying attention, but did hear Michael Kay mention last night that the Yankees lead the league in relief appearances of more than four outs this season. They have 80 such relief appearances, seven more than the White Sox. That’s basically one relief appearance of 4+ outs per game at this point of the year. Last season they only had 101 such outings, for comparison.
On an individual level, Dellin Betances leads baseball with 22 relief appearances of at least four outs while Adam Warren is tied for fourth with 15 such appearances. (Ex-Yankees property Tommy Kahnle and Dan Otero rank second and third, coincidentally.) Betances and Warren are on pace for 96 and 86.2 innings this season, respectively, at a time when only 12 relievers have thrown 86+ innings in a season since 2009.
Joe Girardi has been very good at keeping his relievers fresh and controlling their workload in recent years, but it does seem both Betances and Warren may be starting to wear down a bit these last few days. Warren struggled in back-to-back outings last week (and last night, but he escaped the jam) and Betances just hasn’t looked as sharp. This could just be a case of two relievers going through rough stretches at the same time, obviously.
“I know when I have to give them days off, and I understand that,” said Girardi to Chad Jennings following last night’s game. “Betances has been a starter in his career and has logged a lot of innings, and so has Warren. But there’s times where you just say, ‘You know what? I have to give them two days and get them back recharged.’”
Shawn Kelley‘s return from the disabled list early last month was supposed to make life easier on Betances and Warren, though he has put 14 men on base and allowed five runs in seven innings of work since returning. He loaded the bases with one out on two singles and a hit batsman in last night’s game before escaping with two strikeouts. Yeah, the end result was a zero on the scoreboard, but again Kelley was shaky. He hasn’t been able to move back into a late-inning role just yet.
Between the general bullpen workload and Kelley’s recent ineffectiveness, not to mention the season-long inability to find a decent sixth reliever and long man, the Yankees could find themselves in the market for a relief pitcher or two at the trade deadline. In fact, Ken Rosenthal reported yesterday that New York will “seek to add another reliever to increase their depth and reduce the burdens on Betances and Warren,” so this isn’t just my crazy idea.
Now, obviously, bullpen help is a secondary concern at this point. The Yankees need rotation and lineup help much more desperately than they do another reliever, especially considering their internal options. Even with Preston Claiborne on the Triple-A Scranton DL they still have interesting hard-throwers like Danny Burawa and Diego Moreno in the minors. Matt Daley is still around as well, plus acquiring a starter could push someone like Chase Whitley into a relief role.
The Yankees received some fine bullpen relief work in May (3.53 ERA and 2.85), but the relievers worked hard and had to throw 94.1 innings. (They threw 79.1 innings in April and 80 in May, for comparison.) The bullpen’s overall performance suffered last month (4.28 ERA and 4.18 FIP), possibly as a result of that workload. Getting rotation help and more length from the starters will lighten the load on the relievers, but at this point the Yankees could also wind up having to add another bullpen arm before the deadline.
The Yankees officially wrapped up the first half of the 2014 season last night with a 4-3 extra innings loss to the Rays. They currently own a decidedly mediocre 41-40 record with an awful -33 run differential that ranks ninth worst in the game. It feels like this team loses nothing but blowouts and wins nothing but close games, last night notwithstanding. Nothing comes easy.
Now that the season is halfway complete, I want to look back and compare the team’s current position to where they were last year at this point. Last year’s squad, as you know, was decimated by injuries (especially on the position player side) and only the second Yankees team to miss the postseason in 19 years. Here is a quick nuts and bolts comparison of the last three half-seasons:
|W-L||RS||RA||Run Diff.||AVG||OBP||SLG||ERA||FIP||Def. Efficiency|
|’13 1st Half||42-39||310||326||-16||.239||.302||.379||3.87||3.68||0.692|
|’13 2nd Half||43-38||340||345||-5||.246||.312||.372||4.00||3.90||0.692|
|’14 1st Half||41-40||326||359||-33||.252||.316||.382||4.00||3.82||0.697|
Right now, this year’s club is marginally better than the team the Yankees trotted out there in the second half last season despite a worse record. They’ve performed slightly better at the plate — the difference is basically a few points of batting average, which hasn’t translated to more runs — and in the field and almost identically on the mound. The first half of this year has gone much better offensively and much worse run prevention-wise than the first half of last season.
The difference between this season’s team and the one that closed out last season is very small, which is a big problem. The 2013 Yankees were hit hard by injuries and scrambled for replacements all summer. This year’s team added over $500M worth of contracts to the roster and have not benefited from them in the standings at all. Masahiro Tanaka‘s been outstanding, Jacoby Ellsbury‘s been very good, and just about every other offseason addition has been terrible. Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran have truly been $30M+ worth of dead weight through 81 games.
The problem is two-fold. Not only is like, half the roster underperforming, but now the Yankees are locked into even more big money contracts with even less roster flexibility. They drew a lot of criticism for having an old, expensive, declining, veteran-based roster a year ago, yet they doubled down on that over the winter. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I don’t think. It only looks really bad when those guys underperform, which is something young players are certainly capable of doing as well. The Yankees needed better players this past offseason, not necessarily younger players. That got neither (in terms of actual, on-field performance).
The Yankees are only 2.5 games out of a playoff spot with half-a-season to play and I think the best thing that can happen to them right now is some kind of streak. Either win a whole bunch of games or lose a whole bunch of games. They have 13 games remaining before the All-Star break and either winning or losing about eleven of them would provide some clarity before the trade deadline. The standings say this team is still in contention, but man, watching them day after day does not inspire confidence. Going on some kind of run, either good or bad, puts the front office in a better position to make decisions before July 31st.
Of course, I fully expect the Yankees to go about 7-6 in these next 13 games and be in just about the same position they are right now. That’s what they’ve been doing all season. Whenever they’ve had a chance to beat up on some direct competition or take advantage of a soft part of the schedule, they’ve broken even. If they continue to do that, they’ll look to add pieces at the deadline, perhaps aggressively so because missing the postseason a second straight year will really take a bite out of the bottom line. There is bound to be some desperation setting in and I have a hard time seeing how that can be good.
The Yankees have been wholly underwhelming this season and the numbers bear that out, especially compared to last year. Outside of about five players (Tanaka, Gardner, Ellsbury, Dellin Betances, David Robertson), I don’t find this team to be particularly enjoyable to watch either. That’s just my opinion. They took steps to improve on last year’s performance over the winter and by and large those moves have backfired. The shape of the production may be different, but overall the team is simply not any better than last year’s mess.