On Dellin Betances and his recent struggles

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Last night the Yankees suffered what was maybe their most heartbreaking regular season loss of the Joe Girardi era. I can’t remember another one that bad. The Yankees took a three-run lead into the ninth inning, and a little while later, the Red Sox walked off with a 7-5 win on Hanley Ramirez’s three-run home run. Brutal. It gets no worse than that.

On the mound for that ninth inning meltdown was, of course, Dellin Betances. He’s the closer and the guy Girardi wants pitching in a big spot. It was Dellin’s third straight day of work — Girardi tried to stay away from him by going to Tommy Layne and Blake Parker in the ninth, but nope — and he was clearly out of whack, which has been the case for much of September. I have some thoughts on all of this.

1. Yes, he has what it takes to be a closer. This is as predictable as it gets. Betances has struggled the last few times out which of course leads to folks saying he doesn’t have what it takes to be a closer. Doesn’t have the mental fortitude. Can’t handle the pressure. Blah blah blah. Nevermind that he’s been throwing high-stakes innings for nearly three full seasons now and has been one of the two or three best relievers on the planet.

Here’s a quick leaderboard showing WPA/LI. That’s win probability added over leverage index, which essentially tells us who is most helping their team win in the most crucial situations. Here’s the WPA/LI leaderboard for relievers over the last three seasons:

  1. Zach Britton: +6.00
  2. Dellin Betances: +5.89
  3. Wade Davis: +5.39
  4. Andrew Miller: +5.34
  5. Mark Melancon: +5.08

Basically the five best relievers in baseball, right? Or five of the seven best with Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Point is, getting huge outs is nothing new to Betances. He’s gotten big outs in extremely high-leverage spots before. Struggling these last few times out doesn’t suddenly mean Betances is not fit to be closer. He dominated in the ninth inning last month, and when he filled in for the injured Andrew Miller last year.

2. Yes, his inability to hold runners is a real problem. Although they were scored defensive indifference, the Red Sox stole three bases against Betances last night. Instantly, too. He came in and Chris Young immediately stole second. Then after Betances walked Dustin Pedroia, Pedroia and Young immediately pulled off a double steal. Wednesday afternoon Corey Seager stole second immediately after reaching on an error.

Runners are now 19-for-19 in steal attempts against Dellin this season, and that doesn’t include those three defensive indifferences last night. This is a real problem. Every single and every walk can’t turn into an uncontested double, especially since Betances is always pitching in close games where one run is so meaningful. This is a very real weakness. A fatal one? No. Batters have a .273 OBP against Dellin this season, so there aren’t many guys on base to start with. But it is a problem.

This is clearly something the Yankees and Betances will have to work on in Spring Training next year. It can’t be open season on stolen bases when he’s on the mound, even with Gary Sanchez and his rocket arm behind the plate. Those extra 90-feet are too valuable in the late innings. I don’t know the best way to solve this (varied timing, slide step, etc.) but it can’t go unaddressed. Betances has to at least give the catcher a chance back there.

3. His problems throwing to bases are being overblown a bit. Wednesday afternoon Betances allowed the Dodgers to score an insurance run because he fielded a weak tapper back to the mound and shot-putted it to the backstop. It was ugly. Look at this:

Dellin Betances

Yikes. That has taken on a life of its own in the last 48 hours and become a big “Betances can’t throw to the bases” storyline. Last night YES showed a montage of his throwing failures this year and it was three plays. One play on Opening Day, one where he nearly threw away a 1-6-3 double play ball (but didn’t), and that play against the Dodgers. When you have to go all the way back to Opening Day to find the last time his throwing caused a problem, it’s probably not as big of an issue as its made out to be.

Now, that said, I understand the concern hitters may try to bunt and force him to field the ball, but Betances is not exactly the easiest guy to bunt against. I’ll take my chances with hitters squaring around. Trying to bunt against Dellin is going to lead to a lot of foul balls and easy strikes. Like the stolen base problem, this is something Betances and the Yankees should work on, but this story seems to have taken on a life of its own. The real problem isn’t as great as the perceived problem.

4. Once again, fatigue seems to be an issue. This is the second straight season in which Betances looks visibly fatigued in September. The high-end velocity might be there — Betances topped out at 100.6 mph last night — but he can’t locate anything and his breaking ball lacks its usual bite. Working back-to-back-to-back days three times in the last five weeks after doing it once from Opening Day 2014 through July 2016 probably has something to do it.

The greater issue is the cumulative effect of all the innings Betances has thrown the last few years. He’s thrown 70 innings this season and is on pace for 77.2 innings. That’s down from 84 last year and 90 the year before that. The single-season workload only matters so much though. There is wear-and-tear on his arm from those 90 innings in 2014 and 84 innings in 2015. Betances has thrown 244 innings the last three years, 20.1 more than any other reliever.

It’s not just the raw innings totals either. Girardi can be a bit panicky at times and get Betances up at the slightly hint of danger. Four-run lead in the eighth or ninth? Dellin gets up. We’ve seen it countless times the last few years. Those warm-up pitchers count. They’re pitches being thrown. Add in all the warm-ups and the fact those 244 innings from 2014-16 were almost all high-leverage innings, and it’s no wonder he’s getting worn down despite being 6-foot-8 and 265 pounds.

Betances’ days as a super-reliever who’d come in and get five or six high-leverage outs at a time may be over. Going forward, it may be best for the Yankees to consider him a true one-inning reliever, a guy who throws 65-ish innings a season rather than closer to 80. It sucks and it takes away from Dellin’s value a bit, but keeping him healthy and effective long-term has to be a priority.

* * *

Betances is literally the last player on the roster I’m worried about. His recent slump sucks and is very poorly timed — did you expect the Yankees to be playing meaningful games in mid-September after the way they started the season? of course not — but I don’t see it as being anything more than “he’s running on fumes and is in a slump.” I trust him implicitly as the closer and just wish he’d start holding runners better.

If the Yankees miss the postseason, it won’t be because Betances blew some games this week. It’ll be because Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez completely no-showed this season, and because the rotation has been mostly crap behind Masahiro Tanaka. The Yankees are still in the race largely because Betances has been so awesome this season at protecting leads. The last week or so doesn’t change that.

Yankees have not yet spoken to Eovaldi about future with the team

(Tasos Katopodis/Getty)
(Tasos Katopodis/Getty)

A little more than one month ago, right-hander Nathan Eovaldi made what could very well be the final start of his Yankees career. Eovaldi tore his flexor tendon and ulnar collateral ligament during a start against the Red Sox on August 10th, and soon thereafter underwent surgery to repair both. He’s going to miss all of next season.

“It’s been a slow (rehab) process,” said Eovaldi to Fred Kerber. “I’ve been doing everything I’ve been told … My arm’s just getting better, healthy again. We’re looking at 2018. But you can never tell with rehabs. If you get setback, it could be a while. If everything goes good, you could be ahead of schedule and then you’re in control.”

The timing of the injury ensures the Yankees will non-tender Eovaldi this offseason. He’s due to become a free agent after next year, and there’s no sense in paying him $7M+ to rehab in 2017 only to lose him to free agency after the season. The business side of the game can be cruel. Eovaldi’s going to be injured and unemployed in a few weeks.

The Yankees have a history of signing injured pitchers and patiently nursing them back to health (Jon Lieber, David Aardsma, Matt Daley, Andrew Bailey, etc.), and it stands to reason they could look to do the same with Eovaldi. If that’s the plan, they’ve yet to speak to him about it.

“Nothing yet,” said Eovaldi to Brendan Kuty when asked whether the team has spoken to him about his future. “It’s kind of out of my control. There’s nothing I can do about it. My main goal is just to focus on recovery and getting healthy, whenever it is.”

The going rate for an injured pitcher these days seems to be a two-year contract in the $8M range. Kris Medlen signed a two-year deal worth $8.5M with the Royals last year, when he was rehabbing from his second Tommy John surgery. Mike Minor inked a two-year, $7.25M off shoulder surgery this past offseason, also with the Royals.

Neither the Medlen nor the Minor deal has paid off for the Royals, so while they set the market for Eovaldi, they’re also cautionary tales. The second Tommy John procedure is much riskier than the first, and given the torn flexor tendon, it wouldn’t be too surprising if Eovaldi’s rehab carries over into early 2018 as well. This is a big deal.

Between the Yankees having gobs of money and the expectation that pitching will be hard to come by the next year or two, bringing Eovaldi back on a two-year deal makes sense for the Yankees. They can afford to take the risk. Even if Eovaldi has to move to the bullpen full-time, it’d be worth it. I’d be surprised if the team didn’t at least explore re-signing him after the season.

Mailbag: Votto, D’Backs, Pineda, Hill, Torrens, Rutherford

There are 14 questions in the mailbag this week, the third-to-last mailbag of the regular season. Crazy, I know. Time goes by a little quicker with each passing season. Use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us any questions throughout the week.

And he chokes up too. (Jamie Sabau/Getty)
And he chokes up too. (Jamie Sabau/Getty)

Ben asks: Does Joey Votto interest you in the off season to be the first baseman/DH next year even with the ludicrous contract, his offensive skill should age very well relative to other similar players.

In terms of on-field performance, adding Joey Votto to the Yankees would be amazing. He’s such a great hitter. One of the best of his generation and still somehow underrated. In fact, look at the offensive leaders since the mound was lowered in 1969 (min. 3,000 plate appearances):

  1. Barry Bonds: 173 wRC+
  2. Mike Trout: 167 wRC+
  3. Mark McGwire: 157 wRC+
  4. Joey Votto: 156 wRC+
  5. Frank Thomas: 154 wRC+

Yeah. Amazing. Votto’s hitting .318/.433/.529 (153 wRC+) this season and .418/.504/.655 (202 wRC+) in the second half, and it’s just another typical Joey Votto year. Ridiculous.

Adding his bat to the lineup would be huge. Adding Votto’s bat and his contract is where it gets dicey. He’s got $179M coming to him from 2017-23 and that’s way too much for a guy who is already 33 and limited to first base. The Yankees gave Mark Teixeira eight years and $180M when he was 28. Votto’s got seven years and $179M coming at age 33. Yikes.

Votto is a hitting savant. He studies video and analytics and all sorts of other stuff in an effort to make himself better. His latest trick is cutting down on his strikeouts. As long as he stays healthy, I think Votto will be productive for a very long time. That contract though … it’s a killer. Hard to see that one having a happy ending. How much would the Reds have to eat to make that deal palatable? $7M a year?

Anthony asks: What’s the timing for the new CBA vis-a-vis the FA signing period? Specifically, will the FO know what the “new $189mm” is before we have to bid on FAs?

Oh I’m sure the teams and owners will have an idea of what the luxury tax threshold will be going forward before the start of the offseason and before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is finalized. They’re negotiating the CBA with the MLBPA, after all. It’s safe to assume the threshold will go up next year. If it doesn’t, the union will have failed miserably. Revenues are only going up and the players deserve their piece of the pie. We might not learn what the new luxury tax threshold is for a few more weeks, but chances are the owners will have a ballpark number much sooner, if they don’t already.

Jerry asks: In the Saturday game against Tampa, Torreyes went to the mound and said something to Tanaka. What language do they use?

English! Masahiro Tanaka speaks English. Ronald Torreyes too. Tanaka doesn’t speak English fluently of course, but he knows the basics and can communicate with his coaches and catchers. Tanaka, like many foreign players, gives interviews through translators because he feels more comfortable in his native language (duh) and wants to make sure the things he wants to say come out correctly.

Nick asks: Crazy idea-but would Greinke be available? This idea is dumb and I should get back to work.

The Diamondbacks would be foolish not to make Zack Greinke available, right? They stink and he’s a soon-to-be 33-year-old pitcher owed $172.5M from 2017-21. He’s going to soak up about one-quarter of their payroll going forward, if not more. Arizona should definitely look to unload that contract this winter, but, then again, who knows why that team does anything. I’m inclined to give a flat “pass” on this one. Greinke’s really good and I think he’ll age well because his success is built on command and not raw stuff, but yeah, I’m not betting that much money on him holding up in his mid-to-late-30s.

J. Clam. (Jennifer Stewart/Getty)
J. Clam. (Jennifer Stewart/Getty)

Adam asks: In your opinion what do you think it would take for the Yanks to acquire Jake Lamb from Arizona. Fangraphs says his defense stinks, he’d be a perfect fit at DH for the Yanks next year.

The numbers hate Lamb’s defense this year for whatever reason, but they loved him last year, and the scouting reports all said he’s a solid defender when he was coming up through the minors. I wouldn’t write him off at the hot corner yet. Is he Chase Headley over there? No. But Lamb can play the position. Either way, he’s a bat-first player.

Lamb, 25, has broken out this year, going into last night’s game with a .258/.337/.534 (122 wRC+) batting line and 28 home runs. He’s going to strike out (25.8%) and he can’t hit lefties (69 wRC+), so he’s limited offensively. I’ve been a fan of Lamb’s for a long time and I see him as a better version of Pedro Alvarez. The Yankees could be very short on lefty power next season if they trade Brian McCann and Greg Bird doesn’t hit the ground running, and Lamb would help solve that problem.

What would it take? Well, Lamb is four years away from free agency, and the only decent trade comp I can come up with is Khris Davis. He was another young slugger four years from free agency, though Davis is legitimately a brutal defensive left fielder. Lamb’s an okay third baseman and that makes him more valuable. The Athletics gave up one of their top five prospects (Jacob Nottingham) and a Grade-C second piece (Bubba Derby) for Davis. That seems like the starting point for Lamb, not the end point.

Eliot asks: If the Arizona Diamondbacks decide to make Shelby Miller available in the offseason should the Yankees check in on him? He is still young (turning 26 a few days after the regular season ends) and is not that far removed from having a great season. I was thinking that this could be a similar acquisition to Nathan Eovaldi. What do you think it would cost to acquire him if the Yankees decided to go after him?

Another question about a D’Backs player. Three this week after none in like six months. Anyway, yeah the Yankees should check in on Miller if Arizona makes him available. I have no idea what the D’Backs did to him, but his problems seem to be mechanical more than anything. They’re not injury related as far as we know and it’s not like he has the yips. Shelby’s delivery needs to be cleaned up (a lot) and he’s still young enough and talented enough that the reward could be considerable.

Because the D’Backs sent Miller to the minors for a big chunk of the season, they delayed his free agency a year, meaning he’s now under team control through 2019. That extra year is pretty cool. If Arizona is looking for a Dansby Swanson-caliber prospect plus more for Miller, they can forget it. Not happening. But if they’re open to taking two or three lesser young players, it could work. I’m going to go all my trade proposal sucks on you now: Chad Green, Dustin Fowler, and a lower level shortstop like Hoy Jun Park or Wilkerman Garcia for Miller. Eh? Eh?

Chris asks: Where do you expect to see Chance Adams on next year’s MLB prospect lists, if at all? What are his career prospects and is it reasonable to expect him up at some point next season given his dominance in the minors?

I don’t think Adams will appear on any top 100 lists next spring even though the scouting reports we’ve seen this season were all glowing. Seriously, not one “eh, he’s probably just a reliever” report. By all accounts Adams held his stuff deep into starts and deep into the season, so there are no real concerns about his durability even though he’s not the biggest guy (listed at 6-foot-0 and 215 lbs.). One year in, the transition to the rotation has been a smashing success.

I haven’t thought too much about my own top Yankees prospects list yet but Adams definitely has a chance to be in the top ten somewhere, likely in the 6-10 range. In this system, that’s really good. Adams might not be top 100 caliber yet — I bet he’d sneak onto some top 150 prospects lists though — but he’s still a very good prospect and a steal in the fifth round. He figures to start next season in Triple-A, which means he’s only a phone call away from the big leagues.

Jim asks: The Yankee rotation is shaky headed into next season. Doesn’t it almost seem they need to make a run at Michael Pineda in the offseason? The alternatives next season may be even worse than him and there’s always that elusive potential upside if he can figure it all out.

As frustrating as Pineda can be, the upcoming free agent classes are so weak that it would be worth exploring an extension with him now. If nothing else, it would make him more desirable on the trade market. Shopping one year of Pineda this offseason would get the Yankees something, probably something more than we expect, but obviously multiple years of him would be more desirable.

What about three years and $39M covering 2017-19? That allows Pineda to become a free agent again at 31. He received a $35,000 bonus as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic and has banked roughly $8.5M in his career to date, so he’s made some money, but not “my family and my kids and my grandkids are set forever” money. Pineda might jump at the big payday after the shoulder injury. An extension is worth exploring, for sure.

Mad as hell Rich Hill. (Rob Foldy/Getty)
Mad as hell Rich Hill. (Rob Foldy/Getty)

Mike asks: I know this is a Yankee blog, but what is your opinion about the Rich Hill being pulled 6 outs away from a perfect game?

I understand why Dave Roberts pulled him, but I thought he was being overly protective. At worst, Hill would have faced six more batters. Six! He was closing in on some major history. At the same time, if the trainer felt Hill was starting to develop blisters, taking him out was the right move. The Dodgers’ goal is to win the World Series, not get Rich Hill a perfect game. I wanted to see him left in, but it’s not my neck on the line if he develops a blister and isn’t 100% for the postseason.

Eric asks: Is there any chance Luis Torrens gets picked in the rule 5 draft?

There’s always a chance but I would strongly bet against it. Torrens is only 20 years old and he’s played only 161 minor league games since signing in 2012 due to his shoulder surgery and general inexperience. It’s really hard to see him making the jump from Low-A ball to the big leagues as a catcher. Someone might take him, but he won’t stick. It’s a waste of the roster spot. There have only been four catchers taken in the Rule 5 Draft over the last decade:

  • 2014: Diamondbacks took Oscar Hernandez from the Rays and he stuck because he spent most of the season on the DL with a broken bone in his wrist.
  • 2013: White Sox took Adrian Nieto from the Nationals and he stuck, though he was 24, not 20.
  • 2008: Orioles took Lou Palmisano from the Brewers and immediately traded him to the Astros. He didn’t make the team and Milwaukee declined to take him back, so he went to Double-A.
  • 2008: Diamondbacks took James Skelton from the Tigers. Didn’t make the team, so Arizona made a trade with Detroit to retain his rights. They then sent him to the minors.

It seems like teams are getting better at digging up hidden gems in the Rule 5 Draft these days. Luis Perdomo, Joe Biagini, and Matt Bowman look like keepers this year. Last year the Phillies struck gold with Odubel Herrera. Catcher is a tough place to hide a young player who likely isn’t MLB ready though. That position comes with a lot of responsibility. Leaving Torrens unprotected this offseason is an easy call. It’s so very unlikely he’d stick.

Neil asks: Is Severino on his was to being the next Betances? Keep holding out hope he will be a starter, but ends up being pretty awesome in late inning relief?

Luis Severino now and Dellin Betances then are very different situations. Betances was 25 when he moved to the bullpen, after hundreds and hundreds of minor league innings told us he was not going to be able to repeat his mechanics and throw enough strikes to start. Severino’s delivery isn’t the prettiest in the world, but he can repeat it and throw strikes. The only real questions are a) can he find his changeup again, and b) can he locate his offspeed stuff more consistently? Dellin’s problem was basic strike-throwing.

Severino is only 22. Betances was in High-A at that age. It’s way way way too soon to pull the plug on Severino as a starter, and I don’t think the Yankees will. As good as he was last season, I do think the Yankees rushed Severino through the minors to his detriment. Learning how to not hang every slider you throw is something that should happen in Double-A and Triple-A, not in MLB when the team expects you to become the next staff ace. At this point I feel Severino will be a dominant reliever at worst, but it’s still way too soon to pull the plug on his career as a starter.

Bobby asks: I know the common refrain to questions about empty seats at the Stadium is that the Yankees sell a lot of tickets and the old stadium wasn’t loud all the time either. I get it. But you can’t tell me that the flat atmosphere at the games this month, considering how young and exciting this team has been, isn’t of concern. How is it that the most energy and most full section the stadium’s seen the entire month has been from a renegade band of Dodgers’ fans?

Attendance changes don’t happen as quickly as people seem to think. The team doesn’t go 6-1 one week and then bam, the ballpark is packed the next week. There’s always a lag and it can be pretty long. Last place teams usually don’t see the big attendance drop until a full year later. Yankee Stadium is empty now because they stunk in April and May and people lost interest. The strong finish and the general likeability of young players may not be reflected in the attendance until next year.

Rutherford. (@MiLB)
Rutherford. (@MiLB)

Dennis asks: If Blake Rutherford is put on the “fast-track” to the majors, when do you think we’ll see him? Do you see Blake as a potential “fast mover” through the system? 

Fast-mover by high school player standards, sure. I could see Rutherford splitting next season between Low-A and High-A, then starting 2018 as a 20-year-old in Double-A. That would be about as fast as it gets. Clint Frazier, the fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft, spent his entire age 20 season in High-A, which is pretty aggressive. Rutherford would be a full year of ahead of where Frazer was at the same age if he cuts through Single-A next season.

Rutherford might go on more of a “split” development path. Start next season in Low-A, finish in High-A. Start the following season in High-A, finish in Double-A. The start the season after that in Double-A, finish in Triple-A. Point is, Rutherford’s not a guy who is going to have to wait a year or two to get to full season ball. He should be there next season, and the number of high school kids who open their first full season in Low-A is pretty darn small.

Stephen asks: How do you choose which players to feature on Down on the Farm? Obviously legit prospects are always there, but where do you draw the line after that?

I cut back on the number of players included in DotF a few years ago for the sake of my sanity. Legitimate prospects are always included, so if you’re wondering why, say, Frazier or Rutherford isn’t included one night, it’s because he didn’t play, not because I decided to omit him. After that I usually just go with players who have big games and do something notable, or have some sort of hot streak going. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, really. If a fringe or non-prospect has a good game, I’ll throw him in too. The legitimate prospects are the priority though.

Yankees waste Tanaka’s gem, lose 7-5 heartbreaker to Red Sox in series opener

Woo boy. That was bad. The Yankees wasted Masahiro Tanaka‘s gem in Thursday’s series opener against the Red Sox because they stranded 12 runners and an obviously fatigued Dellin Betances was allowed to give the game away. The result was a crushing 7-5 walk-off loss. The Yankees have now lost four of their last five games. That wasn’t the final nail in the postseason coffin, but it was close.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Out of Gas, Out of Time
For the second straight September, it looks like Betances is completely worn down. He’s worked a lot recently, including pitching back-to-back-to-back days several times this year (he did it as recently as last week), and that’s something he very rarely did from 2014-15. Betances took the loss Wednesday after a kinda stupid inning with two errors and one hard-hit ball. Thursday’s loss was a full blown meltdown.

The Yankees took a 5-2 lead into the ninth and usually that means Betances time, but because he worked the last two days, Joe Girardi tried to stay away from him. Oh, and Tyler Clippard was unavailable too. Adam Warren had already pitched as well. That meant the ninth inning fell on the shoulders of Tommy Layne and Blake Parker, at least temporarily. Layne struck out his batter before Parker hit Chris Young with a breaking ball. That put the wheels in motion.

Apparently the leash was one batter. Parker let a curveball slip loose and plunked Young right on the top of the helmet, and that was it, Girardi had seen enough. In came Betances, and four of his first five pitches were out of the zone. Dustin Pedroia drew a walk to bring the tying run to the plate. The inning actually started like this: Layne comes in, strikeout, Parker comes in, hit-by-pitch, Dellin comes in, stolen base, walk, double steal. Three steals within his first seven pitches. Brutal. (They were actually scored defense indifferences, but come on.)

After Betances got Xander Bogaerts to hit a chopper back to the mound for the second out, he fell behind in the count 3-1 to David Ortiz and allowed a run-scoring single. Then Mookie Betts pulled a 1-1 pitch through the left side to score another run and put the tying run on third. Bad. Bad bad bad. Betances was obviously fatigued and only half of his 16 pitches had gone for strikes. Fewer were actually in the zone. (He got some chases off the plate.)

The at-bat against Hanley Ramirez was classic bad Betances. He fed him nothing but breaking balls, fell behind in the count 3-1, then tried to throw a fastball by him when his back was up against the wall. Hanley was ready for it and Jacoby Ellsbury could do nothing nothing but watch the ball sail over his head into the center field stands for the three-run walk-off home run. The pitch was on a tee:

Dellin Betances

It’s worth noting first base umpire D.J. Reyburn unquestionably missed a called on Ramirez’s check swing in the 2-1 count. Replays showed Hanley clearly went around and chased the breaking ball of the plate, but Reyburn said no swing, so instead of a 2-2 count, it was a 3-1 count. Huge difference. Huge huge huge. To wit:

MLB average in 2-2 counts: .179/.184/.279
MLB average in 3-1 counts: .371/.699/.677

Yup. Brutal missed call, but you know what? The game shouldn’t have gotten to that point in the first place. Betances was ineffective in general and he wasn’t exactly put in the best position to succeed. Was he available or not? If yes, put him in to start the inning with a clean slate and stop getting cute with Layne and Parker. If not, they stay away. What kind of day off is it if Betances is going to warm up in the ninth anyway?

Stranded Runners
The Yankees scored five runs and I swear, I don’t remember any of them. Billy Butler had a sac fly in the first inning, right? He had a run-scoring single later in the game too, so his Yankees career got off to a nice start. I’m drawing a blank on the other three runs. The box score says Starlin Castro, Chase Headley, and Castro again singled in those other three runs. Eh, whatever. The five runs the Yankees scored are not important. The runs they didn’t score are.

Overall, the Yankees went 5-for-16 (.313) with runners in scoring position and they still managed to strand 12 runners. The missed opportunities absolutely came back to bite them. Look at these chances:

Second inning, two runners stranded. Tyler Austin dunked a bloop double down the right field line with two outs — it landed just fair and hopped into the seats — and Brett Gardner followed by being hit by a pitch. Ellsbury then flew out to end the inning.

Third inning, two runners stranded. The Yankees scored two runs in the inning but it should have been three; Headley dunked a run-scoring single to right and for some reason Didi Gregorius stayed at second to tag up. He’s got to be halfway with one out there. Would have scored if he was. Alas. Headley later stole second on the first pitch, putting men on second and third with one out. Rob Refsnyder then struck out against righty Heath Hembree and Austin grounded out.

Fifth inning, one runner stranded. Gregorius led off with a double and moved over to third on the most terrible great play ever. He stole third for some reason and the throw absolutely beat him to the bag, but Gregorius was able to swim move around the tag. Replay confirmed it. Stealing third with no outs in Fenway Park is totally unnecessary. Headley, Refsnyder, and Austin then struck out to strand Didi at third. That was the third time Refsnyder struck out with a man on third and less than two outs in the last two games. At least he makes up for it by hitting for zero power and playing poor defense.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Eight inning, Joe Espada strikes again. I can’t ever recall seeing a third base coach make as many baffling sends as Espada. Every team has runners thrown out at the plate. It’s inevitable. But Espada seems to specialize in those OMGWTF sends. It’s uncanny. A single (Headley), a bunt (Mason Williams), and a walk (Austin) put runners on first and second with one out. Gardner flew out to center, then Ellsbury hit a soft-ish grounder back up the middle. Bogaerts reeled it in and for whatever reason Espada sent Headley home. Replays show him waving him around even though the ball never left the damn infield. Headley was out by a mile. Is it possible for a third base coach to have a negative WAR?

Ninth inning, three runners stranded. The ninth inning was when it became clear that yeah, stranding all those runners was going to come back to hurt the Yankees. Two singles put runners on the corners with no outs, but pinch-hitter Brian McCann struck out. Boo. Then Gregorius drew a walk to load the bases. Woo! Then Headley struck out. BOO! Then Williams ripped a line drive right at Joe Kelly’s stupid little head that he caught out of self-preservation. Threw his glove up and caught it. What can you do? It was ticketed for center field and at least one run, if not too.

In case you weren’t keeping track through all of that, the Yankees went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts with a runner on third and less than two outs. Yup. As miserable as the Betances meltdown was, he never should have had to pitch anyway. The offense came up mighty small several times — Espada sure didn’t help matters — and managed to turn 17 baserunners in Fenway Park into only five runs. Gross. What a traveshamockery.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Masahiro My Hero
Oh Masahiro, you don’t deserve to be stuck with these sad sacks. Tanaka did not have his best stuff or his best location Thursday night — he got four swings and misses and did not strike out a batter — yet he worked through seven innings of one-run ball. Damn is he good. I don’t know if he deserves the Cy Young, but you’ll have a hard time convincing me there are three better pitchers in the AL right now. (He leads the league with a 2.97 ERA.)

Tanaka’s biggest mess was self-induced. It was in the third inning. He walked Jackie Bradley Jr. to start the inning, got a ground ball out, allowed a single to Pedroia, and walked Bogaerts to loaded the bases with one out for Ortiz. Hmmm. Not ideal. Ortiz flew out to deep left field to score the run on a sac fly, then Tanaka got Betts to ground out to third to limit the damage. That was the only time Tanaka seemed to be in real danger.

The final tally: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 0 K. Tanaka got 15 ground ball outs and only six in the air. None of the final ten batters he faced hit the ball out of the infield. Why was Tanaka lifted after throwing only 93 pitches in seven innings? Beats me. He was cruising, and you’d think that with Betances and Clippard unavailable Girardi would want as much length out of Tanaka as possible. He was awesome. Tanaka deserves zero blame for this loss.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Warren allowed a solo home run to Ortiz in the eighth to help the Red Sox start the comeback. It seems Girardi went to Warren in the eighth because the middle of the order was due up, then he was going to roll the dice with Layne and Parker against the bottom of the order in the ninth. Smart. Too bad it all blew up in his face.

Ellsbury, Gary Sanchez, Castro, Gregorius, and Headley each had two hits. That 2-3-4-5-6-7 portion of the lineup went 13-for-28 (.464) and that’s really good. Timing is everything in this game though, so all those stranded runners wound up costing the Yankees the game. Fourteen hits and three walks in Fenway and only five runs? Good grief.

And finally, the Blue Jays won but the Tigers and Orioles lost. The Yankees are three games back of Toronto for the second wildcard spot with 16 games to play. The Tigers and Mariners are both two games out. The Yankees aren’t out of it — they still have four games left with the Jays, after all — but losses like this remind you this team just isn’t good enough. Hasn’t been all year.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. We have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. Here’s the devastating win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Unfortunately, the Yankees have to play again Friday. Then Saturday too. The worst. Hate baseball. Luis Cessa and Clay Buchholz will be on the mound Friday night. Eat at Arby’s.

DotF: Solano, Lail lead Scranton to a win in Game Three of Championship Series

Triple-A Scranton (3-0 win over Gwinnett) they now lead the best-of-five International League Championship Series two games to one, so one more win and they’ll be the champs

  • LF Mark Payton: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RF Clint Frazier: 1-5, 3 K — 2-for-13 (.154) in the series
  • 3B Donovan Solano: 2-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 HBP — 8-for-18 (.444) with four walks and two strikeouts in six postseason games
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 1-3, 1 RBI, 2 BB
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K — he’s driven in seven runs in the six postseason games
  • CF Jake Cave: 0-4
  • DH Cesar Puello: 0-4, 1 K
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HB, 8/3 GB/FB — 59 of 93 pitches were strikes (63%) … he’s struggled big time in Triple-A, but he came up huge in Game Three tonight
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K — 18 of 22 pitches were strikes (82%)
  • RHP J.R. Graham: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 14 of 25 pitches were strikes (56%) … nice to have a former big leaguer closing

Double-A Trenton had a scheduled off-day. They trail the best-of-five Eastern League Championship Series two games to none. LHP Justus Sheffield will be on the mound when the series resumes tomorrow.

High-A Tampa lost the Florida State League Championship Series while both Low-A Charleston and Short Season Staten Island lost their first round postseason matchup. Their seasons are over.

The season is over for Rookie Pulaski, Rookie GCL Yanks East, and Rookie GCL Yanks West. None of the three teams qualified for the postseason.

Game 146: Start of the Road Trip

Hold me. (Presswire)
Hold me. (Presswire)

Would it be a stretch to call this a season-defining road trip? I don’t think so. The Yankees are going to come out of this eleven-game road trip either firmly in the race with a chance to go to the postseason, or so far out of it we’ll all know the season’s basically over. This is make or break time, folks.

The Yankees are in Boston for the first of four with the Red Sox tonight, so we’re in for a bunch of nice low-intensity ballgames that are in no way stressful and definitely won’t last more than two-and-a-half hours. No way will these four games feature 16 hours of gut-wrenching baseball. No siree. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. DH Billy Butler
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. RF Rob Refsnyder
  9. 1B Tyler Austin
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It’s a cool and clear night in Boston. Definitely gonna have a postseason baseball feel to it. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:10pm ET, and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: The Yankees officially announced the Butler signing earlier today. He’s in the starting lineup, so duh. Nathan Eovaldi was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a roster spot.

Injury Update: Aaron Judge (oblique) has a Grade II strain and is officially done for the year. Those take a while to heal. He’s expected to be good to go for Spring Training though. The Yankees placed Judge on the 15-day DL for whatever reason.

News: The Yankees announced earlier today they will hold a pregame ceremony honoring David Ortiz prior to their game on Thursday, September 29th. That will be Ortiz’s final game in the Bronx. Go forth with faux outrage.