Joe Girardi announced this afternoon that Jacoby Ellsbury is day-to-day with a sore left hand. The hand has been bothering him for a few days but tests came back clean. He was scratched from tonight’s lineup and Girardi hopes he will play tomorrow.
Ellsbury broke a small bone in his left hand during Game Six of the World Series last year according to Peter Gammons, so this soreness is a concern only because of the recent fracture. Tests did not show structural damage though. Hopefully he’s back in the lineup tomorrow or the next day. · (18) ·
By Jason Klein, TiqIQ
The Seattle Mariners (10-14) make their way onto the Yankees schedule for this first time this season as they travel to New York to begin a three-game set with the first place Yankees (15-10). When they do, it will mark the Bronx return of Robinson Cano, don’t ‘cha know?
Apparently, many fans don’t know…or care.
If the plunging ticket prices for the series are any indication, perhaps Yankees fans are indifferent when it comes to the All-Star second baseman who bolted for Seattle and a 10-year, $240 million contract this offseason. Expected spotty weather and weeknight games with an average Mariners team could also be factors.
Yankees tickets for Game 1 at Yankee Stadium are trending downward on the secondary market -54% as first pitch approaches. Fans looking to get in and see pinstriped ace, CC Sabathia (3-2, 4.78 ERA) take on Chris Young (0-0, 3.50 ERA) can do so for just $4, well below the $45 average ticket price. With temperatures expected to be in the mid 40’s by first pitch, and a chance of rain, prices could continue to drop as gametime approaches
Despite an average price of $71 on the secondary market for Wednesday night’s game, fans can still get in the building for only $5. Prices are trending down 27% for the middle game of the series when Seattle’s Roenis Elias (1-2, 3.54 ERA) opposes David Phelps (0-0, 3.86 ERA). Phelps will be making his first start of the season, filling in for Michael Pineda who was suspended last week after rubbing pine tar on his neck during a game with the Boston Red Sox.
The biggest bargain of the series comes during the final game when Mariners ace, “King” Felix Hernandez (3-1, 2.40 ERA) matches up with Hiroki Kuroda (2-2, 5.28 ERA). Fans can avoid an average price of $67 by scooping up a ticket to get in the door for just $3 on the secondary market. With still two days to go, prices for Thursday’s series finale are down 21% in the past week.
Cano enters the series with a .301 batting average, 1 HR and 11 RBI. When the former Yankee superstar makes his way out of the visitor’s dugout for the first time tonight, he’s expected to hear a mix of boos and cheers from those in attendance, many of whom got great deals on secondary market tickets prior to the game.
For the first time in his career, Robinson Cano will be a visiting player in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees’ best player from 2010-13 returns to New York this week after leaving the team for the greener pastures of Seattle and the Mariners over the winter. The Bombers made his a strong offer but the M’s blew it right out of the water. Such is life. This will be kinda weird.
What Have They Done Lately?
As expected, the Mariners are still terrible even with Cano. They did just take two of three from the Rangers but have won just four of their last 13 games overall. At 10-14 with a -8 run differential, the only thing keeping Seattle out of the AL West cellar is the Astros.
Both in terms of runs per game (3.85) and wRC+ (79), the Mariners have been one of the worst offensive teams in baseball this season. It’s kind of amazing Cano left the 2013 Yankees (85 wRC+) for a team that is somehow worse offensively. Anyway, Seattle’s only injured position player is 1B/OF/DH Logan Morrison (hamstring), who won’t be coming off the DL this series.
Just like last season, 3B Kyle Seager (123 wRC+) has been the Mariners best position player in the early going. Cano (100 wRC+) is off to a slow start, but come on, you know as well as I do that he’s going to rake before long. 1B/DH Corey Hart (117 wRC+) has been productive around miscellaneous nagging injuries and 1B Justin Smoak (101 wRC+) continues to do just enough to keep people interested. This season it was a huge opening series against the Angels. Eventually they’ll move on.
C Mike Zunino (91 wRC+) has a ton of power but his 21/1 K/BB is pretty funny. Others like OF Dustin Ackley (74 wRC+), SS Brad Miller (46 wRC+), OF Michael Saunders (66 wRC+), and former Yankees farmhand OF Abe Almonte (53 wRC+) have been predictably awful. Almonte was the guy the Yankees traded for Shawn Kelley. OF Stefan Romero (64 wRC+), OF Cole Gillespie (-15 wRC+), UTIL Willie Bloomquist (30 wRC+), and backup C John Buck (54 wRC+) fill out the bench.
Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Chris Young (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
When Randy Wolf made the Mariners out of Spring Training but opted out of his contract because the team tried to re-negotiate the terms (true story), the club picked up the 35-year-old Young. The 6-foot-10 right-hander has a 3.50 ERA (5.25 FIP) in 18 innings across three starts and one relief appearance this year, walking (5.50 BB/9 and 14.3 BB%) more batters than he’s struck out (5.00 K/9 and 13.0 K%). He also continues to be one the most extreme fly ball pitchers in baseball (25.0% grounders). That’s been true his entire career. His reverse split — righties has a .341 wOBA, lefties a .307 wOBA — is a sample size issue and not consistent with the rest of his career. Young is a pure two-pitch pitcher these days, throwing a mid-80s fastball about 75% of the time and filling in the gaps with upper-70s sliders. He survives because of his funky delivery, which hides the ball very well.
Wednesday: RHP David Phelps (vs. SEA) vs. LHP Roenis Elias (No vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Elias, 25, defected from Cuba a few years ago and made the rotation in Spring Training (despite never pitching above Double-A) thanks to the Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker injuries. He has a 3.54 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 28 innings across five starts, pairing a strong ground ball rate (50.6%) with mediocre at best strikeout (6.75 K/9 and 18.1 K%) and walk (4.50 BB/9 and 12.1 BB%) rates. Righties (.332 wOBA) have hit him harder than lefties (.299 wOBA) in his brief MLB career. Elias uses a low-90s fastball to set up his mid-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball, both of which are quality offerings. Since no one on the Yankees has ever faced him before, Elias has the element of surprise working in his favor this week.
Thursday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
You didn’t think the Yankees would get through a series against Seattle and not face Felix, did you? You should know better by now. The King is as good as ever this year, with a 2.40 ERA (2.41 FIP) in six starts and 41.1 innings. His peripherals are, as the kids say, stupid good: 10.23 K/9 (28.7 K%), 1.52 BB/9 (4.3 BB%), and 47.7% grounders. That’ll work just fine. He also has a tiny platoon split, so left or right, it doesn’t matter. Felix, 28, probably has the nastiest stuff in the game, starting with a low-90s fastball that runs back in on righties. His upper-80s changeup is unhittable, his mid-80s slider is unhittable, and his low-80s curveball is unhittable. It’s all unhittable. The guy is a video game. Felix’s career numbers against the Yankees aren’t as ridiculous as you might expect but they’re still excellent. In an age in which Clayton Kershaw and Jose Fernandez are all the pitching rage, Hernandez is every bit as good as those guys and he’s been doing it a lot longer.
Like the Yankees, the Mariners were off on Monday, so new manager Lloyd McClendon’s bullpen is pretty fresh. RHP Fernando Rodney (2.72 FIP) is the closer and remains a high-wire act. Former Yankees farmhand RHP Danny Farquhar (2.75 FIP) and RHP Tom Wilhelmsen (5.38 FIP) have been his primary setup men. Farquhar is one of the guys the Bombers traded to Seattle for Ichiro Suzuki a few years ago.
McClendon has three lefties in his bullpen: LHP Joe Beimel (3.18 FIP), LHP Charlie Furbush (4.46 FIP), and LHP Lucas Luetge (9.51 FIP). RHP Dominic Leone (3.58 FIP) and RHP Yoervis Medina (5.47 FIP) fill out the rest of the eight-man relief crew. The schedule has allowed them to use a four-man rotation the last turn or two, so they’ve been carrying the extra reliever in the meantime. That’ll change next weekend. For the status of the Yankees bullpen, check out our Bullpen Workload page. For the latest and greatest on the Mariners, check out USS Mariner and Lookout Landing.
Via Chris Cotillo: The Yankees have not yet shown any interest in Scott Baker. The right-hander has a 2.81 ERA (4.76 FIP) with 26 strikeouts and ten walks in five starts and 32 Triple-A innings with the Rangers. He can opt-out of his minor league contract if he is not added to the big league roster by May 1st.
Baker, 32, has thrown 15 big league innings since 2011 due to a series of elbow problems. He was awful in Spring Training — 12 runs with a 1/7 K/BB (!) in 12 innings — and failed to make the Mariners’ roster despite all their pitching problems. The Yankees could use a true long man with David Phelps assuming a middle relief role and Ivan Nova’s injury forcing Vidal Nuno into the rotation, but it’s been a long time since Baker was effective. I don’t see much of a reason to be interested with Al Aceves already in house. · (18) ·
The Yankees have had three off-days so far this year and each one has a) followed a win, and b) come when the bullpen really needed a rest. That second part isn’t much of a coincidence — Joe Girardi knows he can use his key relievers a bit more heavily with the scheduled off-day coming up. Anyway, the Yankees kick off a three-game series against the Mariners tonight, and here are some scattered thoughts leading up to the opener.
1. Obviously the big story of the week is Robinson Cano‘s return to the Bronx. It’s going to be weird seeing him in another uniform even though I’ve watched more than a few Mariners games already. I guess I mean it’ll be weird to see him in another uniform in Yankee Stadium. I really hope he gets a big standing ovation prior to his first at-bat — step out of the box, tip his cap, the whole nine — but after that, he’s just another non-Yankee. Cano was the club’s best player the last four years and a pretty big part of the team before that, so some level of respect and appreciation is in order. He is arguably the best second baseman in franchise history, after all. I’ll be pretty bummed out if Robbie gets booed tonight. Show some love, people.
2. Anyway, since we’re talking about middle infielders, Brendan Ryan is due back relatively soon. Probably within a week to ten days. I’m curious to see how he will be used because Derek Jeter has not DHed this year. At all. Literally zero games at the position. No one really cared if Dean Anna sat on the bench for four or five days at a time because it was Dean Anna. He was just happy to be in the big leagues. Ryan is making a decent salary ($2M) and has shown he can be an asset with his glove, but how often will he play? Will Jeter start to see more time at DH? And, if he does, what does that mean for the outfield rotation? I think the Yankees should just keep doing what they’ve been doing these first few weeks, and if Ryan is unhappy with sitting on the bench so much, then work out a trade I guess. I’m sure some team out there will take a good glove shortstop (Tigers? Mets?) off their hands.
3. I feel like there has been more small sample run differential analysis* so far this year. It means nothing in April. It doesn’t mean much more at the All-Star break. The Yankees have a -8 run differential despite being five games over .500 because they’ve been involved in an inordinate number of blowouts. Just within the last two weeks they’ve lost games by the score of 11-5, 16-1, and 13-1. Their two blowout wins during those two weeks were 10-2 and 14-5, so that right there works out to a -16 run differential in just those five games. Those are anomaly games and it just so happens a few were bunched together. I believe the team’s record is a far better indication of how they’ve played than their run differential right now. The Yankees have not played like a sub-.500 team at all.
* I don’t even think you can call looking at run differential and pointing out it doesn’t line up with the win-loss record as analysis.
4. Speaking of those blowouts, the bullpen has allowed 42 runs (34 earned) in 75.2 innings so far this year. Eighteen of those 42 runs (14 of 34 earned) were allowed in 7.2 innings by guys who simply don’t figure to be on the roster very much this year: Bruce Billings, Matt Daley, Cesar Cabral, Shane Greene, and, of course, reliever Dean Anna. That is 42% of the bullpen’s runs allowed in 10% of the innings by guys who are unlikely to be much of a factor this summer. Obviously those runs happened and we can’t strike them from the record, though I thought it was interesting to see just much damage the extra arms have done already. The team’s core relievers (David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren, Matt Thornton, Dellin Betances) have been outstanding. Like a combined 1.50 ERA (~2.27 FIP) with a 30.1% strikeout rate in 48 innings outstanding.
5. Robertson has handled the ninth inning pretty well, hasn’t he? Kelley before him too for that matter. I understand that replacing Mariano Rivera is a daunting task, but so far the Yankees have handled it well. Robertson has had to wiggle out of some jams already but that’s how the other half has lived all these years. We’ve enjoyed countless stress-free 1-2-3 innings from Rivera over the years while other teams were biting their nails because their closer issued a leadoff walk or a one-out double in a one-run game. Not every club has a Craig Kimbrel or a Kenley Jansen. Kelley did an excellent job filling in while Robertson was on the DL, but Robertson is clearly the guy going forward. He proved everything he needed to prove as a setup man these last few seasons and now it’s his time to shine. So far, he’s done just that.
6. I was at Saturday’s game with Ben and he noticed that the Yankees have already cleared a space for another retired number in Monument Park. You can kinda see it in this photo, all the way on the right of the retired numbers. Now, obviously Jeter’s number will be retired during his massive retirement ceremony at the end of the season a la Rivera last year, right? Right. The Yankees have also talked about retiring Joe Torre’s number in the near future, perhaps as soon as this season. I think it was Hal Steinbrenner (or maybe Brian Cashman) who mentioned over the winter that more number retirements are on the horizon as well, which could mean Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Bernie Williams. Maybe Paul O’Neill too, since apparently no one else is worthy of his number. So I guess my question is who is that open spot in Monument Park being saved for? Jeter at the end of the season? Torre at midseason? Someone else entirely? Suspense!
In Episode 2 of the River Avenue Blues Podcast I’m joined by Jay Gordon. We run down the weekend series, which included some great baseball. Then it’s onto the Mariners series – and there’s a lot to say about them.
To add additional insight, we talk to Zach Sanders, writer for FanGraphs and noted Mariners fan. We touch on topics such as:
- First impressions of Robinson Cano
- Failures of the off-season plan
- How a team known for pitching has been so bad
- Things that will go better as the year goes on
Podcast run time 56:22
We’re still awaiting approval from iTunes, but we do have this fancy player that lets you play the podcast in your browser or download it.
Update: Instead of making things too complicated, we’re just going to use the old iTunes feed, which you can find here. The new episodes should populate soon.
Again, audio feedback is appreciated. Jay will have a better mic for the next episode hopefully.
1B Kyle Roller and LHP Caleb Smith were named the Double-A Easton League Offensive Player of the Week and Low-A South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week, respectively. Roller went 10-for-19 (.526) with two doubles and four homers last week while Smith struck out 13 in a six-inning start.
In other news, LHP Manny Banuelos has apparently left High-A Tampa, according to Nicholas Flammia. He is probably heading up to Double-A Trenton after five pretty excellent starts with Tampa. Banuelos is slowly working his way back from Tommy John surgery as you know.
Triple-A Scranton (10-8 win over Durham in 13 innings)
- RF Ramon Flores: 2-6, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 SB — ten hits in his last 25 at-bats (.400)
- 3B Zelous Wheeler: 3-6, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K — just off the DL … hit the go-ahead solo homer in the top of the 13th
- SS Dean Anna: 1-5, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 3-7, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 K — second straight game with a homer and third in the last four games
- CF Adonis Garcia: 2-7, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 SB, 1 E (fielding)
- 1B Russ Canzler: 1-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K — singled in an insurance run in the 13th
- DH Ronnie Mustelier: 0-7, 1 RBI, 3 K, 1 SB
- RHP Al Aceves: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 5/2 GB/FB — 56 of 94 pitches were strikes (60%), and Josh Norris said he was working at 92-93 mph in his first inning
- RHP Matt Daley: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 3/1 GB/FB — 25 of 37 pitches were strikes (68%) … allowed a game tying two-run homer to former Yankee UTIL Wilson Betemit with two outs in the ninth
The Yankees are off today, resting up for Robinson Cano‘s return to the Bronx tomorrow. That’ll be fun. Fun and weird at the same time. In the end though, it’s just another game against just another team. Anyway, Masahiro Tanaka sat down for a chat with Buster Olney this weekend and the video is above. I got a kick out of who Tanaka said gave him the best advice in Spring Training.
Here is the open thread for the night. The Athletics and Rangers will be on ESPN at 8pm ET though (Gray vs. Darvish), and that should be fun. There’s also a bunch of NHL and NBA playoff action as well. Talk about Cano’s return, the Tanaka interview, those games, or anything else right here. Have at it.
In his worst start of the season last night, Masahiro Tanaka struck out eleven and held the best offense in baseball (by runs per game) to two runs in 6.1 innings. He did that thanks in large part to his trademark splitter, which has generated an insane 58.02% swing-and-miss rate so far. That’s unreal. Johan Santana’s changeup peaked at a 50.86% whiff rate in 2007, for comparison.
How did Tanaka learn that splitter? Jorge Castillo looked into the pitch’s history and it turns out a magazine article about a journeyman American-born pitcher you’ve probably never heard of was the inspiration. I don’t want to give away too much (read the article!), but Tanaka modified the forkball he had been throwing into his current splitter and his career took off. “I probably might not even be here,” he said when asked what would have happened had he never seen the magazine. Here’s the link again. Make sure you check it out. Castillo’s article comes with RAB’s highest recommendation. · (18) ·
The Yankees came into 2014 with some very real infield concerns, both in terms of production and durability, and sure enough those concerns manifested themselves within the first week of the season. Just not necessarily in the way I expected — Mark Teixeira caught a spike in the turf in Toronto and landed on the 15-day DL with a hamstring injury. Just like that, the team without a backup first baseman lost their starting first baseman.
Teixeira returned after the minimum 15 days and the Yankees managed to win seven of 12 games during his absence because the replacement infielders played well. Kelly Johnson was adequate (not great, not awful) at first base and Yangervis Solarte did a mean Bernie Williams impression for a few weeks, which made life a lot easier. Derek Jeter has been getting on base a bunch early on as well, and while Brian Roberts has been better of late, he’s been not so good overall. Three out of four ain’t bad, I guess.
Now that the Teixeira has returned, the Yankees have five infielders for four spots. Jeter and Teixeira are going to play no matter what because of who they are. That’s not something worth debating. That leaves Solarte, Johnson, and Roberts for second base and third base. Solarte has hit the skids lately and has seen more time at the bench, but Johnson has seen his playing time take the biggest hit. He’s started only three of seven games since Teixeira came off the DL. Roberts has started every game since Teixeira returned, though he was supposed to sit last night before Solarte’s shoulder acted up.
Because it has been only seven games, it’s unclear how the Yankees are going to squeeze all these guys into the lineup on a regular basis. I mean, yes, Roberts should probably sit because he is the worst player of the bunch, but that seems unlikely to happen right now. The Yankees appear to be determined to give him a chance to show he can have an impact from the bottom of the order. I don’t agree with that — is there even anything left to reclaim at this point? he hasn’t been good in a while now — but that seems to be the plan. Whatever.
Because Solarte and Roberts and switch-hitters, platoon problems don’t really exist and the Yankees have more flexibility. Johnson has been sitting against lefties given since Teixeira returned and I would bank on that continuing going forward. All three of these guys are part-time players to me. Guys who likely get exposed playing everyday but can be productive in say, 400 plate appearance roles. Except Roberts. I’m still not very optimistic about him. But, like I said, he’s going to play so they might as well make the best of it.
Juggling these three will be a difficult situation for Girardi. Maybe difficult isn’t the right word. It’ll be a juggling act though, that’s for sure. Solarte has swung the bat well overall, Johnson has legitimate left-handed power, and Roberts is the proven veteran. There is a reason to keep all three in the lineup. This isn’t a bad thing, mind you. Three players for two spots is better than being short a player or two, but keeping everyone happy and productive is not easy. This isn’t a video game; sitting on the bench a few days a week and being productive right away when pressed into duty is pretty tough.
In all likelihood, this will be one of those “it’ll sort itself out” situations. Someone will play themselves out of regular at-bats or someone will get hurt. Heck, Roberts’ back and Solarte’s shoulder have already acted up. That’s usually how this stuff goes. Until that happens, Girardi will have to juggle Solarte, Johnson, and Roberts between second and third base. The two switch-hitters and the versatility of Solarte and Johnson give the manager lots of options. No one is married to position and Johnson is the only one who will see the platoon disadvantage. That we’re even having his conversation is good news. Three useful pieces for two infield spots was not something I expected to see this early in the season.