Saturday Links: Six-Man Rotations, A-Rod, Franco

(Scott Halleran/Getty)
(Scott Halleran/Getty)

I’m not sure if Andy Pettitte was hanging around the team last night or if he’ll be back this weekend, but he was in the clubhouse in full uniform on Thursday, and he tossed batting practice before the game. Pretty cool. Anyway, the Yankees and Astros continue their series later his afternoon. Here are some links to hold you over until game time.

Do six-man rotations work?

The Yankees are currently employing a six-man rotation but only temporarily — Joe Girardi said they are likely to go back to a normal five-man rotation once the road trip ends next week. The team has been talking about using a six-man rotation since before Spring Training and baseball as a whole seems to be heading in that direction. I don’t think it’ll be long before six-man rotations are the standard around MLB. Maybe ten years or so.

Russell Carleton did some research on six-man rotations to see if they are actually worth the trouble. Does it improve performance? Does it reduce injury? What happens if you have an ace like Clayton Kershaw and don’t want him to make five fewer starts in a season? After some gory math, Carleton found that most pitchers don’t see an uptick in performance with an extra day of rest and their injury risk isn’t reduced substantially. Unexpected!

That doesn’t mean a six-man rotation isn’t worth trying though. It just means historical data indicates the benefits may not be as great as they seem. Every pitcher is different though. Perhaps a six-man rotation greatly benefits Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Or maybe it helps Tanaka and does nothing for Pineda. Who knows? Carleton’s research just shows that a six-man rotation may not be as great everyone seems to think.

Yankees still negotiating for A-Rod‘s 3,000th hit ball

It has now been one week and one day since Alex Rodriguez took Justin Verlander deep for his 3,000th career hit, and, according to Dan Martin and Brendan Kuty, the Yankees are still trying to get the ball from ballhawk Zack Hample. The two sides have made “significant progress” after the team initially offered a package of tickets and memorabilia.

Hample says he wants the Yankees to “perhaps make a large donation” to Pitch In For Baseball, a charity that provides baseball equipment to kids around the county. “I could sell the ball at an auction for a lot of money and then turn over the money to the charity. I’ve certainly been hearing from a lot of auction houses,” he said. “This is a big chance to do something extraordinary for (the charity).”

Using the milestone baseball to help charity rather than for personal gain is an honorable thing. Of course, Hample has spent the last few days trolling A-Rod on Twitter and going on a media tour, so he’s milking his 15 minutes for all they’re worth. Hopefully A-Rod gets the ball, a charity gets a lot of money, and Hample stops pushing kids out of the way for baseballs. That way everyone wins.

Maikel Franco: Almost a Yankee

Earlier this week Phillies infielder Maikel Franco made a bit of a name for himself by wrecking the Yankees, going 6-for-12 with three home runs in the three-game series at Yankee Stadium. I won’t dub him a Yankees Killer based on one series, but yeah, he crushed them. Impressive showing by the kid. The Phillies are really bad but Franco is a definite bright spot and a reason for fans to tune in every day.

As Dan Barbarisi writes, the Yankees tried to sign Franco as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic back in 2010, but fell $5,000 short of Philadelphia’s offer. The Phillies offered $100,000 and the Yankees offered $95,000. “I was very close to signing with the team—my agent told me which teams wanted to sign me, and the Yankees were up in that group,” he said. Only if Hal Steinbrenner wasn’t so stupid and cheap Franco would have been a Yankee argh!!!

Except that’s not really how this works. For starters, no one cares about this if Franco does 2-for-12 in the series. Second, we can’t assume he would have signed with the Yankees had they simply matched the offer. Franco might not have liked the idea of joining a team with a first baseman and third baseman signed until the end of time. Third, every team falls a few grand short of signing players every year. And sometimes those players get good. That’s baseball.

Young’s late homer gives Yankees come from behind 3-2 win over Astros

Source: FanGraphs

For the first six innings or so, it looked like the Yankees had a Dallas Keuchel hangover. The Astros ace dominated New York on Thursday and it took a while for their bats to recover Friday night. But, once they did, a clutch late-inning homer turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead and a win in the second game of the series in Houston. It’s Friday night, so let’s recap with bullet points:

  • Young Again: Man, what a pickup Chris Young has been. Yeah, he slumped a bit in May, but he has five hits in this series and swatted the go-ahead three-run home run in the seventh inning on Friday. The Yankees appeared headed for another shutout loss when Young sent a Will Harris pitch out to left field. Harris came into the game with a 0.78 ERA this season, by the way. He’s Houston’s relief ace. Young went 3-for-4 and now has nine homers off the bench. Good bench players are so valuable.
  • Nasty Nate: Outside of the disaster in Miami — and it was awful, no doubt about it — Nathan Eovaldi has been pretty good the last six weeks or so. Not great, but solid. He held the Astros to two runs on five hits and two walks in six innings, striking out six. The second run scored a dinky bloop just out of Stephen Drew‘s reach. Eovaldi got eleven swings and misses, his third highest total of the season. Nice start, Nate.
  • Bullpen On Parade: Three innings, five strikeouts, no hits for the bullpen. Chasen Shreve struck out the side in the seventh, Justin Wilson got two outs before walking a batter in the eighth, and Dellin Betances nailed down the four-out save. Betances struck out Evan Gattis on three pitches to end the eighth with the tying run in scoring position. Great night for the ‘pen. Shreve has been something else, hasn’t he? What a find.
  • Leftovers: Brett Gardner, who sat out Thursday’s game, stayed hot with two hits, including a double off the left-center field wall … Chase Headley had a single and two walks … Garrett Jones had two hits, including one off a lefty … Jose Altuve stole second in the sixth inning. It was the first successful steal against Eovaldi in 196.1 innings. Crazy. He’s the best right-handed pitcher in baseball at shutting down the running game.

Here are the box score, video highlights, updated standings, Bullpen Workload page, and Announcer Standings page. The Yankees and Astros continue this four-game series on Saturday afternoon, when Masahiro Tanaka gets the ball against lefty Brett Oberholtzer.

DotF: Severino dominates again in Triple-A; Fowler stays hot for Tampa

Triple-A Scranton (2-0 loss to Buffalo)

  • CF Ben Gamel & RF Aaron Judge: both 0-4 — Judge struck out once
  • C Austin Romine: 1-3
  • LF Ramon Flores: 2-3
  • RHP Luis Severino: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 7/5 GB/FB — 64 of 90 pitches were strikes (71%) … they’re going to have to call him up to MLB before he’s challenged, huh?
  • RHP Brandon Pinder: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1/0 GB/FB — 19 of 32 pitches were strikes (60%)
  • RHP Jose Ramirez: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 17 of 35 pitches were strikes (49%) … strikes, Jose

[Read more…]

Game 74: Bounce Back

(Scott Halleran/Getty)
(Scott Halleran/Getty)

Last night’s game was a legitimate “tip your cap” game. I know no one wants to hear it, and yes the Yankees probably do too much cap-tipping in general, but Dallas Keuchel was on point last night. Sometimes you just get beat. That’s what happened last night. That’s baseball.

Thankfully today is a new day with a new game and chance to, you know, get back in the win column. The Yankees haven’t done enough of that lately. They’re 18-22 in their last 40 games. That’s not good! No cap-tipping tonight. Just win, baby. Here is Houston’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. DH Carlos Beltran
  6. RF Garrett Jones
  7. LF Chris Young
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

It’s another hot day in Houston, so the Minute Maid Park roof will probably be closed again. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin just after 8pm ET. You watch on both YES and MLB Network. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) will work out with the team tomorrow and could begin playing in rehab games as soon as early next week. No date is set in stone yet, however.

Roster Move: What, you didn’t think the Yankees would go a day without a roster move, did you? This one is only minor: Jose DePaula was outrighted to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. He had been designated for assignment the other day to clear a 40-man roster spot for Ivan Nova. So DePaula is still in the organization as a non-40-man roster player.

Lennon: Yankees not ruling out a pursuit of Cole Hamels

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Yankees are not ruling out a pursuit of the very available Cole Hamels, reports David Lennon. Bob Nightengale reminds us the Yankees are not included on Hamels’ no-trade list, so that’s not an obstacle. Back in March we heard the Yankees had “come the closest” to landing the Phillies ace in what seemed like an obvious attempt to drive up the price for other teams.

Hamels, 31, allowed five runs in five innings at Yankee Stadium earlier this week, though his defense did him no favors. I’ve seen plenty of people say Hamels wouldn’t survive in the AL and other stuff like that because of that game, but the Yankees aren’t stupid. They’re not going to read too much into that one start. Hamels has been around a while and one start doesn’t supersede his overall body of work.

The Yankees have six starters for five spots … sorta. CC Sabathia has been pretty bad all season and Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow makes his a perpetual injury risk. Moreso than the average hurler. Michael Pineda and Adam Warren have workload/fatigue concerns as well. Ivan Nova‘s return adds depth and there’s no such thing as too much pitching, especially when it comes to someone as good as Hamels. He makes any rotation better.

Hal Steinbrenner has indicated the Yankees will focus on rental players at the trade deadline and recently we heard the team has “sworn off” trading top prospects for those rentals, but Hamels is under contract at $23.5M annually through 2018 with an option for 2019. That’s not a bad contract! Hamels and Jon Lester are the same age and have been almost the same pitcher since 2013 …

Cole Hamels Jon Lester

… and Lester just signed a six-year deal worth $155M this past offseason. Hamels is a bargain by ace standards. Of course, acquiring him would also require trading prospects, which factors into the equation. In a perfect world a big market team like the Yankees would just spend money to acquire an ace, but doing so typically requires a long-term commitment. Giving up prospects to make a trade is one way to avoid an ugly long-term deal.

I am generally pro-Hamels trade with the lame “depends on the cost” caveat. I’d have no trouble trading Luis Severino or Aaron Judge for Hamels. But both? Eh, that’s where it gets messy, and maybe I’m just prospect hugging. At the same time, I understand the argument that Hamels is already 31 and is starting to approach the age where even great pitchers break down. We see Sabathia every fifth day but he’s hardly the only example. Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Johan Santana … the list goes on and on.

Anyway, regardless of whether you’re pro-Hamels or not, I think we can all agree the Yankees should at least keep in touch with the Phillies and keep tabs on the lefty. Ruling out a trade at this point would be sorta silly, especially when talking about a pitcher of this caliber. The Yankees tend to make their biggest, long-term impact moves in the offseason while searching for band-aids in-season. Someone of Hamels’ caliber would probably be an exception.

Unlocking the mystery of Michael Pineda

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Along with the shiny ERA (1.89) and ridiculous strikeout-to-walk ratio (8.4), perhaps the most impressive part of Michael Pineda’s 2014 campaign was his consistency from start-to-start.

Game Score is a metric devised by Bill James that provides a quick-and-dirty evaluation of a pitcher’s start. Every pitcher begins a game with 50 points and then gets points added/subtracted based on innings pitched, strikeouts, walks, hits and runs allowed. 50 is average, anything above 90 is awesome, and anything below 10 is horrible.

Last year, Pineda posted an above-average Game Score in 11 of his 13 starts — the exceptions were the pine tar game in April and his September 11 start against the Rays when he allowed 10 hits and four runs in 7 1/3 innings (Game Score of 44).

Pineda’s 2015 season couldn’t be any more different. While he’s shown flashes of brilliance — the 16-strikeout gem against the Orioles, the one-hit masterpiece against the Marlins — he’s also had his share of clunkers. Six of his 14 starts have produced a Game Score under 50, including a career-worst Game Score of 5 in his most recent start on June 22. He’s basically been either a stud or a dud this season, and can go from elite to enigma in the blink of an eye.

Strap in, because this roller coaster ride is not for those with weak stomachs:

Pineda GmScr

The peaks and valley have become even more extreme in his last seven starts, which have resulted in the following game scores, starting with his May 15 outing against the Royals: 29, 37, 65, 57, 23, 75, 5. Yikes.

How can we explain this bizarre Jekyll-and-Hyde sequence from a pitcher that last year resembled a metronome (when healthy)?

A scout recently told John Harper of the New York Daily News that one reason for the huge disparity in Pineda’s performance lies in the inconsistent execution of his signature slider:

“His height creates an angle on the slider that hitters don’t usually see and when it has a sharp break they don’t hit it. But when he doesn’t have the tight spin and the sharp break, it hangs in the strike zone and it’s getting hit.”

This is what Prince Fielder can do with a hanging slider from Pineda: (2)

But Lorenzo Cain had no chance on this nasty slider from Pineda: (3)

Pineda’s last two starts have been a microcosm of his season. On June 17 against the Marlins he was at his absolute best, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Five days later against the Phillies, he pitched the worst game of his career.

Just as the scout noted, his slider was much flatter against the Phillies compared to his previous start, averaging nearly an inch less vertical movement and three-quarters of an inch less horizontal movement. Against the Marlins, his slider netted Pineda nine outs — including six strikeouts — with no hits allowed; the Phillies put six of his sliders in play and got three hits off the pitch.

But it wasn’t just a sloppy slider that doomed Pineda against the Phillies. Similar to his other disaster starts this season, he struggled to hit his spots with his cutter and batters pounded the poorly located pitches.

As you can see in the images below, he did a good job of avoiding the middle of the zone vs. the Marlins (on the top). But he threw far too many cutters (dark red dots) over the heart of the plate vs. the Phillies (on the bottom), who got seven hits and made just four outs against the pitch.

Pineda vs Marlins

pineda vs Phillies

When Pineda is at his best, he’s got a sharp slider and devastating cutter that makes him nearly unhittable. But at his worst, he’s forced to navigate lineups with flat sliders and batting-practice cut fastballs — a pitching arsenal that becomes crushable even against the worst offensive team in the majors. Although this inability to execute his pitches probably doesn’t completely explain Pineda’s inconsistency this season, it’s something that can’t be ignored.

Once tabbed as the future ace of the Yankees pitching staff, Pineda is now a mystery with the potential to either dominate or detonate when he steps on the mound. The question remains: can he find the consistent approach necessary to make him a true top-of-the-rotation starter?