If any one player on the Yankees encapsulates the frustration that is baseball, it’s Starlin Castro at the plate. Like the game itself, Castro’s time at the plate can be endlessly joyful or maddeningly frustrating. But also like baseball itself, the truth with Castro falls somewhere in the middle. Is he as bad as his Alfonso Soriano-reminiscent at-bats of chasing anything breaking? Probably not. Is he as good as he was his first week in pinstripes? Probably not. As a whole picture, though, it’s hard to argue that Castro is a prettier one to look at than the last two years of the likes of Jayson Nix and Stephen Drew.
2016 has been a modest recovery type year for Castro, after being abysmal in 2015 (and 2013, with a good year sandwiched in between). While a 96 wRC+ isn’t anything to throw a parade over, it’s a big upgrade for him over the mark of 80 that he had last year. He’s also set career highs with 20 homers and a .166 ISO. Starlin’s .273 batting average represents a jump of only eight points from 2015’s mark and his jump in OBP–from .296 to .304–is equally small. The real bump for this slight bounceback (which may be ending soon thanks to yesterday) comes from his power. His ISO has jumped .056, leading to a .064 jump in slugging to .439, a career high by one point over 2014’s number of .438.
As we might expect with a power surge, the increase is coming on Castro’s results from fly balls and line drives, the types of batted balls that tend to go for extra bases. On fly balls and line drives, Castro is hitting .441 with an .842 SLG, a .525 wOBA, and a 239 wRC+. Again, this is self-evident; he should be hitting for power on these batted ball types. What intrigued me about these numbers, though, is that they represent increases over 2014, his last good season. His ISO on FB + LD in 2014 was .309, which is much lower than the .401 mark he’s put up this year.
2014 and 2016 look pretty similar in terms of batted ball percentages for Castro, with one slight difference that helps explain the uptick in ISO. This year, Castro’s FB% has dipped slightly from the 2014 mark, but his HR/FB% has seen an uptick; he’s hitting fewer fly balls, but more of them are leaving the field than in a previous productive season.
Back in 2014, Castro generated power only from the inner part of the zone. That seems to have changed in 2016. We can see a lot more power coming from out over the middle and even on the outer half (up and away and middle out, both in the zone).
Maybe it’s something in the way he’s swinging or making contact, maybe it’s just the randomness that is baseball at times, but Castro is hitting with power he hasn’t quite seen before. He’s an up-and-down player, it would seem, and now he’s on an upswing. Can he carry that into 2017? Hopefully.
It would be more depressing if it weren’t so predictable. Saturday afternoon the Yankees blew a three-run lead for the second time in three days, sending them to their fourth straight loss and sixth in the last seven games. In the most important stretch of the season, they’ve folded like a lawn chair. Saturday’s final score was 6-5 Red Sox. It’s Saturday, so let’s recap with bullet points.
- An Early Lead: Well, if nothing else, at least we know the Yankees have David Price’s number. They hung a five-spot on him Saturday thanks to a two-run home run by Gary Sanchez and a two-run double by Austin Romine. The Sanchez homer was mighty impressive. Price gave him a fastball down and in and Sanchez hooked it over the Green Monster. Pretty cool. The Yankees scored those five runs on nine hits in six innings against Price.
- Another Short Start: Man, Bryan Mitchell was one pitch away from a really nice start. It could have been two runs in five innings, but instead it goes in the books as four runs in 4.2 innings. For shame. Xander Bogaerts hit Mitchell’s final pitch over the Monster for a two-run home run to cut New York’s lead to 5-4. Mitchell missed his spot by the full width of the plate, but still, Bogaerts somehow managed to keep this …
… fair for a home run. Not even mad. I’m impressed. Sanchez is the only player on the Yankees who could hit that pitch out of the park. Maybe Starlin Castro. That’s it. Mitchell allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and a walk in his 4.2 innings. He fanned three. Good start, bad finish.
- The Latest Bullpen Meltdown: It really felt like only a matter of time until the bullpen blew the lead, didn’t it? Five of the nine batters Luis Severino faced reached base, and one of the outs was a bunt. He was charged with the tying run after allowing a double to Bogaerts, then Mookie Betts hit a chopper over Didi Gregorius‘ head against Adam Warren. The winning run scored on a wild pitch. Runner on third with one out is a Tyler Clippard situation because he’s a strikeout/pop-up pitcher. It wasn’t his assigned inning though. Alas. So in came Warren and his put the ball in play approach. Shocked it backfired. Shocked, I tell you.
- No Late Offense: None one of the final 13 Yankees to bat hit the ball out of the infield. Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk in the seventh and was thrown out stealing second for some stupid reason. Just let Sanchez hit with a man on base. First base is already scoring position with him. Romine was stranded at third after his double against Price too. Rob Refsnyder struck out with a man on third and one out for the fourth time in his last three games. Brutal.
- Leftovers: Both Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) and Castro (hamstring) left the game hurt and there’s a decent chance their seasons are over. Both are going back to New York for tests … Gregorius and Romine were the only Yankees with multiple hits. Romine was allowed to hit for himself against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth even though Brian McCann was available to pinch-hit … Refsnyder went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts overall … New York’s postseason odds have nosedived from 18.2% to 2.2% in seven days, per FanGraphs.
Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Assuming either the Orioles or Blue Jays win tonight, the Yankees will be five games back of the second wildcard spot with 14 games to play. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. CC Sabathia and Drew Pomeranz will be on the mound in the series finale Sunday. That’s the ESPN Sunday Night Game. ESPN still thinks the Yankees are relevant, apparently.
Jacoby Ellsbury left this afternoon’s game with a right knee injury, the Yankees announced. He hurt himself crashing into the wall trying to make a catch in the seventh inning. Ellsbury stayed in initially, but he was removed after the inning. He’s heading for tests. Here’s the play:
The Yankees lost Starlin Castro to a hamstring injury earlier in the game, so they lost two regulars in the span of four innings or so. That would hurt more if the team hadn’t bombed out of the postseason race this week. The exact nature of Ellsbury’s injury is unknown, but we’ll find out soon enough.
4:54pm: After the game, Joe Girardi told reporters Castro felt a “pop” in his hamstring, which is never good. He’s going to return to New York for tests.
3:51pm: Castro does indeed have a right hamstring strain, the Yankees announced. He’s heading for further tests. Here’s the play:
Ronald Torreyes came in to replace Starlin on the bases, and he and Rob Refsnyder would be the obvious candidates to take over at second. It’s worth noting veteran utility infielder Donovan Solano had a tremendous season in Triple-A, and with Scranton’s season over, he could be a short-term option. Creating 40-man roster space wouldn’t be tough.
The Yankees have not yet released an update by Castro, so stay tuned. This one seems like standard “hamstring strain and heading for an MRI” stuff. We’ll see. At this point, even a minor strain could end Castro’s season. That sucks.
So the last two days haven’t gone too well. The last six days, really. The Yankees have lost five of their last six games and pretty much every flaw has been exposed. Bad offense, little rotation depth, worn out bullpen, you name it. The Yankees are still mathematically alive in the postseason race, but it’s getting down to “they need to win out to get in” time. Not good. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- DH Gary Sanchez
- 2B Starlin Castro
- 1B Billy Butler
- SS Didi Gregorius
- 3B Chase Headley
- C Austin Romine
- RF Rob Refsnyder
RHP Bryan Mitchell
It’s sunny and clear in Boston this afternoon. A good day for postseason dreams to die. Today’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on FOX. Good ol’ FOX. Try to enjoy.