Game 68: A big start for Big Mike

(Stephen Lam/Getty)
(Stephen Lam/Getty)

Overall, this has been a pretty crummy season for Michael Pineda. He comes into Saturday’s game with a 5.88 ERA on the season, but only three starts ago he had a 6.92 ERA. Pineda has pitched well the last three times out after some mechanical tinkering at the behest of pitching Larry Rothschild.

Regardless of whether you’re all-in on this season and think the Yankees can contend, or think they’re screwed and need to sell, you want Pineda to do well. Pitching well will help the team get back into contention and it’ll also help raise his trade value, which was pretty much zero a few weeks ago. Anyway, here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

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

It’s warm and a bit cloudy in the Twins Cities, and there’s a slight chance of rain pretty much all day. It doesn’t look like anything that will cause a delay or a postponement, however. First pitch is scheduled for 2:10pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Mark Teixeira (knee) is progressing quite well. He’s been taking batting practice and he was able to do some running yesterday. He’ll run the bases today. Sounds like Teixeira might be able to begin a minor league rehab assignment Tuesday.

Saturday Links: Miller, Beltran, Teixeira, YES, Jeter

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Twins continue their four-game series later this afternoon. Here are some links to help you pass the time until first pitch.

Yankees want “sure things” for Miller

From the “no duh” rumor mill: the Yankees are seeking “sure things” in return in any Andrew Miller trade, reports Jon Heyman. I guess that means they want MLB ready young talent, not prospects who are a year or two away from the big leagues. Makes sense, right? No need to settle for lottery tickets when you’re dealing a player of Miller’s caliber. Either get players who can help you right now or keep the reasonably priced elite reliever who is under contract two more years. The Yankees don’t have to move Miller, after all. If someone wants him, it’ll cost them.

Yankees, Beltran have not talked new contract

Another one from the “no duh” rumor mill: the Yankees and impending free agent Carlos Beltran have not yet had any talks about a new contract, so says Barry Bloom. This shouldn’t be a surprise at all. Beltran is having an awesome season, but he’ll be 40 next April, and the Yankees have a small army of outfielders in Triple-A. They’ve been going young pretty much everywhere possible — and they absolutely need to do that, in my opinion — and part of that is letting Beltran go and replacing him with one of the many younger options. There’s nothing wrong with having a courtesy chat about a new deal, but yeah, this ain’t happening.

Teixeira admits to thinking about retirement

Chances are Mark Teixeira is in his final season as a Yankee — they could bring him back next year as Greg Bird insurance, though I would be surprised — but he has already said he’d like to play five more years. That doesn’t mean he isn’t thinking about retirement though. Here’s what Teixeira said during a recent radio interview when asked about retirement, via Joe Giglio:

“Yea, it’s in the back of mind mind,” Teixeira said. “Absolutely. Even last year when I broke my leg on a fluke foul ball. I’m having a great season and we’re in first place and I break my leg. I’m like, ‘Man, is this ever going to stop?’ You think about how much longer do I want to do this. But you get through it. You have those frustrating times. You joke around when you’re on the DL and think it’s rock bottom watching your team on TV. But you get through and when you get back and hit a couple home runs, you think this is fun again. Hopefully, I’ll get through it this season and perform and help the team. Then we’ll sit down and discuss it as a family as far as what I want to do.”

I can’t imagine thinking and talking about retirement can be an easy thing for a pro athlete. They’re facing the inevitability of walking away from pretty much the only thing they’ve ever known. Teixeira’s been dealing with all these injuries the last few years and you know no one wants to go out like that.

YES ratings down 10% in 2016

According to Richard Morgan, YES Network ratings are down 10% from last season. They’re averaging a little more than 230,000 viewers per game these days. YES averaged nearly 400,000 viewers per game from 2002-11, when the Yankees were in their heyday and contending every year. This isn’t unexpected, right? The Yankees are bad and when teams are bad, ratings (and attendance) drop. Hopefully it doesn’t lead to the team doing something stupid, like trying to spend their way back into contention in a weak free agent market this winter.

Jeter-Davis wedding set for July 2nd

How about we close with some happy news? According to Emily Smith, Derek Jeter and Hannah Davis will be getting married on July 2nd, so two weeks from today. Smith says it’ll be a small family and close friends only ceremony in Napa, and they “want to start a family and have kids right away.” Are those kids gonna have the best genes ever, or what? Also, various social media accounts sure make it seem like Jeter is out doing the bachelor party thing with Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, and Andruw Jones. That is some serious #squadgoals right there.

DotF: Torrens returns, Staten Island plays 20 innings on Opening Day

To the notes:

  • C Luis Torrens is healthy! He’s on the Short Season Staten Island roster. Hooray for that. Matt Schneldman wrote a nice puff piece on Torrens, so check that out. We’ve been hearing about him for a while now, but Torrens turned only 20 last month. In fact, he’s still the third youngest player on Staten Island’s roster.
  • Both 1B Chris Gittens and RHP Chance Adams made today’s Prospect Report, which is not behind the paywall. Gittens hit three home runs last night and Adams chucked 5.1 scoreless innings in his Double-A debut.
  • The Yankees have signed IF Josh Gardiner out of the independent Frontier League, the team announced. The 22-year-old hit .311/.406/.489 with two homers and six steals in 23 games with the Schaumburg Boomers.

Triple-A Scranton (7-1 loss to Gwinnett) they faced former RailRider Manny Banuelos

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 BB — he’s now 24-for-63 (.381) with five doubles and three triples in his last 15 games
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 2-4, 1 BB — apparently his opt-out date was earlier this week, so no, he didn’t opt-out … usually in these cases the two sides agree to push the opt-out back a few weeks, so Swisher might be able to leave at some point in the future
  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-4, 2 K
  • C Gary Sanchez: 0-4, 1 K — 5-for-26 (.192) since coming back from the broken thumb
  • DH Tyler Austin: 0-3, 1 BB, 3 K — no contact night
  • LF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K — threw a runner out at second
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 7/1 GB/FB — 50 of 83 pitches were strikes (60%)
  • LHP Chasen Shreve: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K — nine of 13 pitches were strikes … second rehab outing, and he came out of the bullpen this time rather than start the game
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 12 of 17 pitches were strikes (71%)

[Read more…]

Tanaka cruises, Yankees take second game from Twins 8-2

Death, taxes, and the Yankees pounding the Twins. No matter how crummy the Yankees may be, you can always count on the Twins to be worse. The Bronx Bombers won their second straight game Friday night, beating the Twinkies by the score of 8-2. They’re back to within a game of .500.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Four In The First
Remember last season, when the Yankees seemed to put a run or two on the board in the first inning each night? They scored 125 runs in the first inning last year, the most in baseball and the most by any team since the 2010 Twins. Minnesota had 132 first inning runs that year.

This season has been much different. The Yankees came into Friday’s game with only 27 first inning runs, fourth fewest in baseball. Only the Phillies (11), Giants (26), and White Sox (26) had scored fewer runs in the first. Geez. So, naturally, the Yankees tagged Twins rookie southpaw Pat Dean for four runs in the first inning Friday. To the annotated play-by-play:

Yankees vs. Twins play by play

(1) Four pitches into the game, the Yankees had a lead. Rob Refsnyder‘s run-scoring double was well-struck and it split the left and center fielders perfectly. It was a very aesthetically pleasing double. A straight gap shot. I said this the other day, but I feel like it’s a total waste to play Ike Davis over Refsnyder at this point, even against righties. It’s time to find out what the kid can do.

(2) Carlos Beltran‘s homer was a result of a bold strategy in which Beltran fouled off a bunch of pitches outside the strike zone. He fouled off what should have been balls three and four (pitches six and seven below) …

Carlos Beltran at-bat

… which extended the at-bat, allowing him to hit a two-run home run on pitch eight. It was a no-doubter into the second deck in left field. It was also Beltran’s 17th home run of the season already. He hit 19 all of last year — his 17th homer last season came on September 22nd — and only 15 two years ago, his first in pinstripes. Contract year Carlos is pretty damn excellent.

(4) There is no point No. 3. I somehow skipped over it when labeling the play-by-play and I don’t feel like going back and making a new image. Cut me some slack. It’s Friday night. Anyway, Pat Dean was having such a tough time in the first inning that he managed to walk Starlin Castro. Castro came into the game with a 4.2% walk rate and a 36.7% chase rate on pitches out of the zone, 19th highest in baseball. You really need to miss well off the plate to get Starlin to take four pitches, and Dean did indeed miss well off the plate. When Castro draws a walk, you need to take advantage, and the Yankees did.

(5) You know who’s been pretty good of late? Chase Headley. He was awful in April. Worst hitter in baseball awful. But, since May 1st, he’s hitting .296/.347/.430 (110 wRC+) in 147 plate appearances, and it’s hard to complain about that. Headley ripped an opposite field double off the wall to put runners at second and third with one out, and I’m pretty sure it would have been a homer in Yankee Stadium. A wall-banger double works too.

(6) The infield single was all hustle by Didi Gregorius. First baseman Joe Mauer had to dive — it was more like a flop, really — to stop the ball, and Gregorius beat Dean to the bag by like half a step. It was really close, but Didi was indeed safe, and Castro was able to score from third to make it 4-0 Yankees. Gregorius has been pretty great since May 1st too. He’s hitting .306/.346/.442 (112 wRC+) in 156 plate appearances during that time.

(7) You see that “Strike (foul)” on the first pitch of Romine’s at-bat? That was very nearly a bloop double to right field. It was foul by like four inches and it would have scored Headley from third base (duh). We’ve seen Romine poke a few doubles to the opposite field like that already this season. This one sliced just foul. No BABIP luck this time. Two pitches later Romine banged into an inning-ending double play. That’s okay. Four runs in the first is cool with me any day of the week.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Master Tanaka
You know, early on it did not seem like Masahiro Tanaka had his good stuff. Headley bailed him out with a great stop at the hot corner to end the first, then, in the second, Eduardo Escobar missed a two-run home run by about five feet. The ball hit off the very top of the high wall in right-center. It was crushed. A ground out scored a run that inning following a leadoff single and Escobar’s double.

Following Escobar’s double, Tanaka settled down and retired 20 of the final 25 batters he faced. Four of the five baserunners were clean singles by Escobar, Mauer, Brian Dozier, and Eduardo Nunez. The other was an error by Castro. Following that Escobar double, Tanaka did not allow runner to make it as far as second base until Nunez and Mauer strung together back-to-back singles in the eighth. He finished with just the one run allowed on seven hits and no walks in eight innings. Tanaka fanned five and threw a season-high 110 pitches. That’s the good stuff right there.

Tack-On Runs
The game felt like it was over after that four-run first inning, though the Yankees made sure to put the game out of reach in the middle innings. Two singles (Alex Rodriguez and Castro) and a walk (Headley) loaded the bases with no outs in the third, and Gregorius was able to get a run in with a fielder’s choice to second. Romine ripped a two-run double into the gap later in the inning. That made it 7-1. Castro made it 8-1 with a sac fly in the fourth inning. Nice comfy lead, that was.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Every Yankee in the starting lineup had a hit by the third inning. Is that good? That seems good. Beltran led the way by going 3-for-4 with the homer. Joe Girardi pulled him with the Yankees up 8-1 in the sixth. Smart move. Beltran’s knee was barking in Colorado earlier this week, remember. No need to push it with the score out of hand. Davis took over at first and Refsnyder shifted to right.

Speaking of Refsnyder, he went 2-for-4 with a double and a walk, plus he played a nice first base. He turned a 3-6 double play in the third, made a nice stretch on Headley’s play to end the first, and also ran down a pop-up near the stands in foul territory. Nice night for Refsnyder on both sides of the ball. Headley, meanwhile, went 2-for-2 with a double and two walks. He’s now hitting .259/.333/.355 (89 wRC+) on the season. Remember, Chase hit .150/.268/.150 (22 wRC+) in April. He’s come a long way since then.

Most of the bullpen got a night off thanks to Tanaka. Nick Goody allowed a solo homer in an otherwise uneventful ninth inning. Believe it or not, this is only the fifth time in 33 wins the Yankees didn’t use one of the big three relievers. It’s only the second time they’ve been able to avoid using the big three in their last 14 wins. The Yankees play a lot of close games. It’s nice to get an easy blowout win once in a while.

And finally, the Yankees are now 83-28 against the Twins since the 2002, the first year of the Ron Gardenhire era. That includes the postseason. Four of those 28 losses were to peak Johan Santana too. The Yankees are also 20-5 all-time in Target Field, postseason included. This rivalry has been very, very one-sided the last decade and a half.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score, MLB.com has the video highlights, and ESPN has the updates standings. RAB has Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Game three of this four-game set. That’s an afternoon game with a 2pm ET start time. Silly central time one. Michael Pineda and Ricky Nolasco are the scheduled starters.

Game 67: Two wins in a row, maybe?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees snapped their four-game losing streak last night, and given their dominance of the Twins over the last decade or so, it looks like they could be able to rattle off a few wins in a row this weekend. Maybe even enough to get back to .500. (Again.) One day at a time though. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 1B Rob Refsnyder
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. LF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It was another nice day in Minneapolis, with only a few clouds in the sky and temperatures in the mid-80s. Looks like they’ll have similar weather all throughout the weekend. Tonight’s game will begin shortly after 8pm ET. You can watch on WPIX. Enjoy the game.

Guest Post: Why the Opt Out Clause May Save the Yankees

The following is a guest post from longtime reader Don Sullivan. He recently wrote a guest post about the future of the Yankees’ top three relievers.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
A-Rod had an opt-out once upon a time. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

At this point in time it is obvious to all that Free Agency in Major League Baseball isn’t what it used to be. Thanks to revenue sharing, gone are the days where small market teams no longer have the ability to lock up elite talent. With the constant injury risk professional athletes are exposed to, signing a contract for $20M+ and setting up you and your family for life is almost impossible to resist. (Bryce Harper notwithstanding, but his Under Armour deal certainly eases any financial burdens.) The Yankees no doubt have realized this, yet because of the constant pressure to win, they have been trotting out a patchwork roster.

However, gone are also they days, I believe, where you can lock up someone like Chris Sale (5 years $32M) without a player option (he actually has team options!). Opt-out clauses are becoming extremely popular. Once reserved for regrettable Yankee contract extensions (A-Rod and CC Sabathia), they have started to become almost mandatory for elite talent. Most recently and notably you saw it in the Stephen Strasburg and Yoenis Cespedes contracts, but also David Price, Giancarlo Stanton, Clayton Kershaw, Masahiro Tanaka and Johnny Cueto. Even Ian Kennedy and Wei-Yin Chen secured opt outs.

Why is this relevant? Because it can bring elite players back to Free Agency for bigger contracts, thus putting the big market teams at an advantage again. Using the Sale contract as an example, imagine if his agent had negotiated an opt out after 2015? The player option trend has really just started to take hold and it will be a few years before teams like the Yankees can become the beneficiary of them, which brings me to my next point.

Although a different sport, the Yankees only need to look across town at the Knicks, for a horror tale in big spending and constantly mortgaging the future. For the sanity of all of us Yankee fans, they cannot and I believe will not turn into the Knicks. I do personally believe that this year, and next year, 2017, will be lost years for the ball club. This should be something most of the fan base, and ownership, comes to grips with.

Even with the Yankees losing the contracts of both Tex and Beltran after the season to clear up some payroll, there is no one hitting free agency worth big money. A 36-year-old Jose Bautista? No thank you. The oft injured 30-year-old Carlos Gomez? Nope. Ian Desmond, Mark Trumbo, Neil Walker, Colby Rasmus, Andrew Cashner? Yeah, this coming free agency crop isn’t going to turn the Yankees into World Series contenders.

Looking to 2018 is the reason (as noted in my last post about trading the relievers) you trade Dellin Betances if someone takes Jacoby Ellsbury. Is Ellsbury one of the Yankees 3 best position players on today’s team? Absolutely, however, today’s team is going nowhere. In 2018 and beyond, you hope that the ever improving farm system/international spending spree starts to bear some serious fruit and that the free agency market starts to return players of prominence due to the aforementioned player options. Players with Ellsbury’s tools (i.e. speed and no power) do not historically age well. Odds are the contract at $20M+ per year will be an absolute albatross on a, fingers crossed, young talented team that is a few free agent additions away from competing.

Right now, it actually will benefit the Yankees the most to act like a small market team. Pawn off their current major league aging assets, stay away from large free agency contracts (only because there is no one worth a large contract), and start to play some of the kids to see who is a part of the future and who is not. I am looking at you Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Rob Refsnyder, Ben Gamel, etc. Yes, the Yankees financial might sets them apart from the rest of the league, but right now baseball has learned how to circumvent that. As noted, I believe that will change and it will greatly behoove the Yankees to have a young talented team that takes it bruises in 2017 and begins to reload the payroll in 2018 and beyond; then it will to sign stopgaps to long term deals and try and compete in 2017.

We have been spoiled as a fan base for the better part of the last two decades. I personally can see the light and will gladly take these next two years as “developmental” than go through the last 15 years of atrocities the Knicks have gone through in chasing the quick fix. I will be a Yankee fan no matter what for the next 40+ years, I will deal with a few bad years if it means a return to prominence and World Series appearances.

King: Yankees have interest in Cuba infielder Yulieski Gurriel

(Eyder Peralta/NPR)
(Eyder Peralta/NPR)

According to George King, the Yankees have interest in Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel, who was recently declared a free agent by MLB. Gurriel will reportedly work out for teams privately rather than hold open showcases. No word on whether the Yankees will bring him in for a workout. They probably will. They always do.

I covered everything you need to know about Gurriel and the Yankees the other day. He’s said to be a Yankee fan because his favorite player in Alex Rodriguez, plus he’s close friends with Aroldis Chapman, though who knows if that will influence his decision. I imagine money will be Gurriel’s top priority. It is for most, after all.

“This is a veteran player with a lot of experience. This is not a rookie. He has all the qualities needed to be a good player at this level,” said Chapman to King. “He is a really good player and a really good person. He is a great contact hitter with power, a quality swing.”

The Yankees need to rebuild their offense because the guys they’ve been counting on for so long, like A-Rod and Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, aren’t going be around a much longer. We saw the other day what the lineup looks like without them. Starlin Castro, Chase Headley, and Didi Gregorius batting 3-4-5 is just … no. It’s just no.

In recent years the Yankees have brought pretty much every big name Cuban free agent in for a workout. They just haven’t signed any of them. Gurriel is not a kid, he just turned 32, and he’s been a star in Cuba for a long time. Everyone expects him to be an impact bat right away, and boy, the Yankees sure could use one of those going forward.