(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

After starting the season with 13 games in 13 days, the Yankees enjoyed their first scheduled off-day yesterday. That it came on the heels of that crazy win over the Red Sox only made it sweeter. The team will call up at least two players before tonight’s series opener against the Cubs, one of whom will be a catcher to replace Frankie Cervelli. Here are some random thoughts about coming roster moves and more.

1. The Yankees have no shortage of catchers, so replacing Cervelli is a matter of preference. Austin Romine would be the easy move, but Dan Barbarisi says John Ryan Murphy will instead get the call to sit on the bench behind Brian McCann. I like the move for two reasons, one more important than the other. For starters, the team could always use him at third base in an emergency, so he adds flexibility. That’s the less important reason. Secondly, I also think there is a lot of learning that can be done just by being in the big leagues, especially as a catcher. Playing everyday in Triple-A would allow him to get at-bats, sure, but Murphy would not be exposed to big league game plans and scouting meetings and all that. Since Cervelli suffered a Grade II strain and is going to be out for quite a while, Murphy will get an extended opportunity to learn from the big league coaching staff and a veteran mentor in McCann. This might be the start of a Jorge Posada/Joe Girardi-esque apprenticeship.

2. The infield is a much different situation. Both Derek Jeter (quad) and Brian Roberts (back) are day-to-day, so adding another infielder makes sense. Carlos Beltran at first base was fun for one night, but I don’t want them to make it a habit. Every infielder on the 40-man roster is either in the big leagues, hurt (Mark Teixeira and Brendan Ryan), or suspended (Alex Rodriguez). There is no obvious call-up candidate. Scott Sizemore has MLB experience and he’s off to a nice start with Triple-A Scranton (165 wRC+), plus they’re going to have to make a decision about him soon anyway because his May 1st opt-out is looming. I think he has a minor league option remaining (don’t hold me to that), meaning the Yankees can send him back to Triple-A later in the summer. With Zelous Wheeler hurt, the only other Triple-A infield options are Corban Joseph, Jose Pirela, Russ Canzler, and Carmen Angelini. Brian Cashman told Bryan Hoch they are leaning towards Canzler, for what it’s worth. Either way, I assume this player is only keeping the spot warm for Teixeira, who can be activated off the DL this weekend. (That doesn’t mean he definitely will, of course.)

3. As for squeezing Sizemore or any other infielder onto the 40-man roster, I think we are firmly in “Ryan to the 60-day DL” territory. His DL stint was retroactive to March 22nd, so he’s already closing in on a full month on the shelf. The last update we have on him came Friday, when Joe Girardi told Brian Heyman that Ryan had started light baseball activities. That’s all. Light baseball activities. Given how tricky backs can be, I’m sure the Yankees will be extra careful during his rehab. And remember, Ryan missed almost all of Spring Training, so he’ll need more than the usual two or three minor league rehab games to get ready. Missing another four or five weeks doesn’t seem unreasonable. So yeah, I think Ryan will be transferred to the 60-day DL whenever another 40-man spot is needed, which will be this afternoon. I suppose Cervelli is a 60-day DL candidate as well, but I think Ryan is first in line.

(Jason O. Watson/Getty)

(Jason O. Watson/Getty)

4. I was talking to Ben about this yesterday: did you realize that Robinson Cano has hit six homeruns in his last 81 games? Arbitrary endpoints and all that, but it is exactly half a season. It’s not like Cano has not hit during that time (.332/.388/.472), but his power has been more towards the gaps for doubles (25) than over the fence for the last half-season. Clearly the lineup late last season has something to do with that. Robbie got nothing to hit down the stretch last year, even after the Alfonso Soriano trade. Teams simply were not going to let him beat them once the playoff races heated up. I love Cano and I wish there was a way he could have stayed with the Yankees on a reasonable contract, but man, that kind of extended power outage is a bit scary for a player who just signed a huge deal. Now watch him go hit six homers this week.

5. Once Teixeira returns, whenever that is, I don’t see how the Yankees can keep Yangervis Solarte out of the lineup. No, he’s not going to hit .357/.413/.500 (160 wRC+) all year, but he is better than Roberts. That seems pretty clear after 13 games. Kelly Johnson has quietly been excellent (also 160 wRC+) and we all know Jeter and Teixeira aren’t coming out of the lineup, so that leaves second base as the only spot to play Solarte. This is one of those simple and straightforward moves that might not happen right away because the Yankees have some money invested in Roberts and may decide give him more rope. Randy Winn stuck around until late-May before the team replaced him, remember. Hopefully they’re more willing to making quick decisions about this stuff these days. The AL East race is going to be way too tight to wait for a low-ceiling veteran like Roberts to find it. Solarte’s earned the playing time already.

Categories : Musings
Comments (73)

C Peter O’Brien was named the High-A Florida State League Offensive Player of the Week. He went 13-for-39 with two doubles and four homers during the first ten days of the season. Not bad.

Triple-A Scranton was rained out yet again. They’ve played ten games and had six rainouts this season. Crazy. They’ll try to play a doubleheader tomorrow, but the forecast isn’t much better.

Double-A Trenton (2-0 win over Akron)

  • CF Mason Williams: 1-4
  • LF Ben Gamel & 3B Rob Segedin: both 0-3, 1 BB — Gamel was caught stealing … Segedin scored a run and committed a throwing error
  • DH Tyler Austin: 1-4, 2 RBI, 2 K
  • RF Taylor Dugas: 1-4, 1 2B
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 12 K, 3/4 GB/FB — 58 of 87 pitches were strikes (67%) … that’s a new career high in strikeouts for him, he had struck out ten on two occasions (once last year, once the year before)

Read More→

Categories : Down on the Farm
Comments (37)

The Yankees do not have a game today; it’s their first scheduled off-day of the 2014 season. It came at a good time too. Last night’s game was pretty intense and I have no trouble sitting around thinking about that win for an extra 24 hours. The Yankees are back at it tomorrow night, when the Cubs visit the Bronx for the first time since 2005.

Here is your nightly open thread. Braves-Phillies will air on ESPN and the Mets are playing the Diamondbacks later tonight. Neither of the NBA locals are in action and we’re stuck in the middle of those days between the end of the NHL regular season and the playoffs. Talk about anything you like here. Have at it.

Categories : Open Thread
Comments (104)
  • Olney: Soriano will retire if he has a poor 2014 season

    Via Buster Olney (subs. req’d): Alfonso Soriano said he intends to retire if he has a poor 2014 season. If this year goes well, he’d like to stick around and play another two seasons, preferably with the Yankees. Soriano first admitted to considering retirement during Spring Training.

    Following a brutal start to the new season (0-for-17), the 38-year-old Soriano has come around recently and is hitting .222/.271/.467 (104 wRC+) with three homers overall. I think he’d be a great candidate for the Hiroki Kuroda series of one-year contracts plan, but it takes two to tango. Soriano still has power and he can play both outfield corners as well as DH. There is definitely room for him on the roster. I think the whole “play two more years” thing is an indication he’ll seek a two-year deal, however.
    · (36) ·

  • Francisco Cervelli has Grade II hamstring strain; Shane Greene to Triple-A

    The MRI on Frankie Cervelli’s hamstring revealed a Grade II strain, the Yankees announced. He will be placed on the DL. CC Sabathia suffered a Grade II hamstring strain last September and he had to wait eight weeks before he could resume baseball workouts, so Cervelli probably isn’t coming back anytime soon.

    The Yankees also announced that right-hander Shane Greene has been sent to Triple-A Scranton, so two players will be called up before tomorrow’s game. Obviously one will be a catcher. With Derek Jeter (quad) and Brian Roberts (back) banged up, it’s a safe bet the other player will be an infielder. And, just in case you were wondering, the Yankees say the x-rays on Brian McCann’s hand were negative after he took that deflected pitch off the barehand last night.
    · (80) ·

What pitch is coming next? Your guess is as good as mine. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

What pitch is coming next? Your guess is as good as mine. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Two games into his MLB career, Masahiro Tanaka looks very much like the number two starter he was expected to be when he left the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Yeah, he has shown a penchant for the long ball, but he has also struck out 18 of 56 batters faced (32.1%) while walking only one (1.8%). He leads the league in swing and miss rate (17.2%) and in getting hitters to chase out of the zone (43.9%), both by comfortable margins.

Obviously the element of surprise is working in Tanaka’s favor. Most MLB hitters have never faced him before, and while they can watch all the video and read all the scouting reports in the world, there’s no substitute for standing in the box and seeing him for yourself. Tanaka definitely has an advantage right now, but eventually that element of surprise will go away. That’s okay though! He’s not going to turn into Sidney Ponson once the book gets out. Or maybe he will. Who knows? Whatever.

Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed about Tanaka in his two starts is that he is very unpredictable. I don’t mean his performance, I mean his pitch selection. It seems like he will throw almost anything in any count, but that’s just what I’ve seen, or at least what I think I’ve seen. I always think back to this whenever I’m writing about anecdotal stuff. PitchFX can tell us more about Tanaka’s pitch selection than my memory, so with a big assist from Brooks Baseball, here is how he has pitched in various situations in his two starts:

Total Pitches FB% SNK% SLD% SPL% CB% CUT%
Count Even 87 21.8% 21.8% 21.8% 18.4% 12.6% 2.3%
Tanaka Ahead 64 17.2% 20.3% 23.4% 35.9% 1.6% 0.0%
Batter Ahead 47 25.5% 44.7% 10.6% 14.9% 0.0% 4.3%
ALL 198 21.20% 26.80% 19.70% 23.20% 6.60% 2.50%

I was originally planning to include a table with the pitch selection breakdown by count, but that was a mess of numbers and in some cases the sample was only a handful of pitches. It was too much information. Breaking it down like I did above works much better, trust me. (If you must see the individual count info, you can do it via the Brooks link above.)

The first thing that stands out to me is how Tanaka has pitched with the count even. The cutter is his clear sixth pitch but otherwise he will throw his four-seamer, sinker, slider, and splitter interchangeably in those situations. The curveball lags behind slightly. How do you prepare for that if you’re a hitter? You can’t sit on a pitch with the count even. You can get lucky and guess right, sure, but there’s no pattern there. You’re just as likely to see a straight four-seamer as you are his trademark splitter.

When he gets ahead in the count, Tanaka tends to lean on his slider and especially his splitter, understandably. Those are his out pitches and when you’re ahead, you try to finish hitters off. He still throws plenty of fastballs in those counts, enough to keep hitters honest. When he’s behind, it tends to be mostly fastballs, which is pretty common. Tanaka has still thrown at least four different pitches at least 10% of the time regardless of whether he’s ahead in the count, behind in the count, or even.

So yeah, my memory didn’t lie. Tanaka has been very unpredictable with his pitch selection in his two starts. That doesn’t mean he will pitch this way forever, but that’s what has happened so far. I tend to think unpredictability is a good thing when it comes to pitching, but there is also an argument to be made that Tanaka’s splitter is so good that he shouldn’t bother screwing around with his other pitches in certain situations. Here’s a quote from one scout, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus (no subs. req’d):

“Without a doubt the splitter is a difference maker; it could very well be the best in the game. But I have concerns about the way he nibbles at the plate and drives up his pitch counts at times. He also gets a little too reliant on the fastball as well, using it instead of the splitter too often when he’s ahead of the count. He does have velocity, but it’s not nearly the same caliber of putaway pitch as the splitter. Why eat ground chuck when you’ve got filet in the fridge?”

Tanaka has averaged only 3.54 pitches per plate appearance in his two starts, the 79th lowest among 93 qualified starters. The first two innings of his two starts have been rough, but he’s averaged 3.43 pitches per plate appearance in the first and second inning. It’s 3.60 pitches per plate appearances from the third inning onward. This does not necessarily mean the scout is wrong. Tanaka has had some extended at-bats (like everyone else) and perhaps he could cut down on those by emphasizing the splitter.

The early inning struggles have been annoying, but Tanaka has pitched very well overall against two tough lineups in his two starts. Hitters haven’t seen him and that’s a distinct advantage, and the fact that he mixes pitches and uses his arsenal so well makes him even more unpredictable. Even though he is only 25 years old, Tanaka definitely has a “crafty veteran” element to his pitching style, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.

Categories : Analysis, Pitching
Comments (46)
(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Yesterday was pretty damn close to a disaster day for the Yankees. Before their 3-2 win over the Red Sox, we learned Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts were day-to-day with a sore quad and back, respectively. Jeter missed just about all of last season with various leg problems and Roberts has missed most of the last four years with all different kinds of injuries. Any sort of physical malady is a red flag with these two.

Then, during the actual game, Frankie Cervelli went down with a right hamstring injury. He had an MRI last night and while the results are not yet available, it sure seems like he is headed for the DL based on the way he crumbled to the ground and limped off the field. Two innings later, Yangervis Solarte appeared to hurt his leg running through first base, but it turns out he took an errant fist below the belt. Don’t ask me how. Soon after that, Brian McCann was hit in the bare hand after a pitch deflected off A.J. Pierzynski’s elbow guard. It looked bad but he is apparently okay. Catchers, man.

In the span of about seven hours, the Yankees almost lost a full infield worth of players. That’s how Carlos Beltran wound up playing first base for the first time in his life last night. The Jeter and Roberts injuries were somewhat predictable given their age and recent injury history — Girardi told Vince Mercogliano that Jeter “went through some (quad) tightness in Spring Training that he got through. He had it in his calf at one point, and he got through it,” which isn’t exactly reassuring — while Cervelli, Solarte, and McCann were a bit more fluky. Cervelli hasn’t been all that durable throughout his career though, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.

Girardi confirmed Jeter is not scheduled to have any tests and an MRI on Roberts’ back came back negative, so those two are nothing more than day-to-day. That said, the season is 13 games old and the team’s starting middle infielders are already dealing with physical issues. Brendan Ryan is out with a back problem too. I have a very hard time believing these will be one-time injuries. And, even if the are, the Yankees can not treat them that way. They came into the season with questions about their infield (both production and health) and so far nothing has changed. Sunday was a reminder from the baseball gods.

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

You’re smart, you know where I’m going with this. Stephen Drew remains unsigned and is just sitting there waiting for a job. He would cost the Yankees only money, their second round pick (55th overall), and a 40-man roster spot. Drew, who is said to be willing to play another infield position, would fit the roster like a glove as a defensively capable shortstop with a dead pull left-handed swing geared for Yankee Stadium’s short porch. Remember, even when Roberts was perfectly healthy, he was a total zero at the plate (37 wRC+). Long, pain in the ass at-bats (4.56 pitches per plate appearance) are great, but at some point he has to get on base.

The second base problem is one Drew can help correct, either directly (playing there) or indirectly (playing third with Kelly Johnson at second). He’d give the Yankees protection for Jeter and heck, they could sign him to a two-year contract and have their 2015 shortstop situation already sorted out rather than waiting for the offseason. Of course, Scott Boras isn’t an idiot, he knows the Yankees are in desperate need of infield help, especially after the Jeter and Roberts injury scares. I don’t think he’ll take a sweetheart deal (two years, $16-20M?) despite his client’s continued unemployment. But man, it’s a great fit on paper.

The Yankees came into today’s off-day with a 7-6 record and a -5 run differential, but I think they’ve played pretty well overall. Following some early-season struggles, the offense have been productive and diverse, ranking in the league top six in AVG (.273), OBP (.335), ISO (.154), and steals (11). Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda have added a new and exciting dimension to the rotation, and the increased use of infield shifts has helped defensively. The Yankees committed all that money this winter in an effort to win now, but the job is incomplete as long as the infield remains status quo. The team needed Drew before the season and they need him even more right now.

Categories : Hot Stove League
Comments (219)

Record Last Week: 4-3 (29 RS, 32 RA)
Season Record: 7-6 (49 RS, 54 RA, 6-7 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Cubs (two games, Tues. and Weds.), @ Rays (four games, Thurs. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Categories : Polls
Comments (71)

I think I need a cigarette after that game. The whole series, really. The Yankees hung onto a one-run lead for dear life on Sunday night, beating the Red Sox 3-2 to win three of four games this weekend. Man, that game was way too intense for April 13th. I love it.

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Big Time Player Does Big Time Things
The Yankees signed Carlos Beltran specifically for games like this. They’ve seen firsthand how he can be an impact player in even the most pressure-filled environments, excelling in big games and big situations. If there is such a thing as clutch players, Beltran is the model.

On Sunday, Beltran helped the Yankees both offensively and defensively in their win over Boston. He got them on the board in the third inning with a two-run homer into the first row of the left field stands, getting out in front of Felix Doubront cutter but still getting enough of it to hit it out of the park. He didn’t even square it up — the replay showed it was damn near off the handle. Beltran also singled and doubled, leaving him a triple short of the cycle.

In the field, Beltran picked up his team by playing first base for the first time in his professional career. He’d never done it in either the big leagues or the minors, yet when Frankie Cervelli went down with a hamstring problem in the fourth inning, Beltran stepped in to play the position like he’d been there his entire life. Well, that’s not true. He wasn’t tested with any tough plays and only had to received three throws from other infielders. Still, with his teammates going down with injuries all night, Beltran stepped up and played a new position as a 36-year-old veteran. Dude is a baseball marvel.

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

All Hail Replay
We saw the Yankees take advantage of the new replay system a few days ago, when Joe Girardi successfully challenged a call against the Blue Jays that led to a run. He made another successful challenge on Sunday, this one on the play that injured Cervelli. The backup catcher/part-time first baseman grounded into an inning-ending double play with men on corners, but the call was overturned after Girardi requested a replay. Instead of the inning and the rally being over, Cervelli was declared safe at first and the runner scored from third on the play. That was New York’s third run and, ultimately, the game-winning run. Hooray technology.

Ivan The Kinda Sorta Terrible
This had to be one of the ugliest 7.1-inning, two-run starts I’ve ever seen in my life. Ivan Nova again struggled with his command, leaving fastballs and curveballs up in the zone all night. It looked very similar to his first two starts, but this time he found a way to get outs and give his team an opportunity to win. Real gutty outing, I thought. There were times it seemed he was on the edge of disaster.

Nova allowed the Red Sox’s first on a Jonathan Herrera single in the second inning — the Sawx put together that rally with two outs, stringing together three straight singles — and their second on a monster Mike Napoli homer in the sixth. He hit it over the visitor’s bullpen and into the left field bleachers. It was a shot. Nova retired the last six men he faced and only had two 1-2-3 innings, scattering eight hits. He didn’t walk anyone and only struck out four. Here is his PitchFX breakdown from Brooks Baseball.

Through three starts this year, we have not seen the Nova we saw in the second half last year. That guy was dominant and in total control almost every time out. This version of Nova always seems to be dancing in and out of danger each time out. These are character building starts, I guess. At this point Ivan is the weak link in the Yankees’ rotation — he has yet to cruise for four or five innings at a time like CC Sabathia has done in his last two starts — but he’s only had one disaster start. At some point he has to start driving the ball down in the zone more consistently, but on Sunday he was good enough to help the team win.

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Late-Inning Nail-Biting
Man, the end of this game was ridiculously intense. The Yankees kept Boston in the game by going 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranding at least one runner in all eight offensive innings, so the score was only 3-2 by time the eighth inning rolled around. With Nova out of gas, Girardi turned the game over to his David Robertson and Adam Warren-less bullpen.

After Xander Bogaerts started the eighth with a weak fly out to right, Matt Thornton was summoned to match up with David Ortiz for the second straight game. Ortiz got ahold of a hanger and drove it out to right field, but Ichiro Suzuki tracked it down and crashed into the wall making a great lunging catch. It was awesome. Ichiro was only in the game because of Cervelli’s injury and, given how the rest of the inning played out, he had a real impact on the win.

With two outs and the bases empty, David Phelps got the ball to record for the final out of the inning. Before he could do that, he put Napoli (double), Daniel Nava (walk), and A.J. Pierzynski (hit-by-pitch) on base. The Nava at-bat was a real battle in particular. Boston had the bases loaded and the go-ahead run in scoring position with two outs. The left-handed Mike Carp pinch-hit and fouled off three pitches in an eight-pitch at before swinging over top of a curveball for strike three. That was a grueling inning to watch. Phelps went full Joba with the fist pump after getting the final out:

David Phelps

That eighth inning was as close as the Red Sox would get to tying things up. Interim closer Shawn Kelley tossed a perfect ninth inning, striking out two and getting a line out to center field. Piece of cake. Phelps was both the bullpen hero and bullpen villain on Sunday. He loaded the bases with two outs before getting the huge strikeout to save the game. At +0.175 WPA, the Carp strikeout was the New York’s biggest defensive out of the season to date. Feels about right, no?

The Yankees blew a prime run-scoring opportunity in the first inning, when Jacoby Ellsbury was thrown out at third on Alfonso Soriano‘s sac fly. The tag was applied for the final out before Beltran crossed the plate, so the run didn’t score. Beltran wasn’t exactly busting it down the line, but that play by Ellsbury was way too high risk/high reward for that point of the game. Baseball 101: never make the third out at third base, especially in the first inning when the opposing starter is giving up rockets all over the field. Thankfully it didn’t come back to bite them.

Rough night for the Yankees physically. Before the game we learned that both Derek Jeter (quad) and Brian Roberts (back) have been dealing with nagging injuries, then Cervelli got hurt in the fourth inning, forcing Beltran to first. In the sixth, Yangervis Solarte somehow got hit in the manhood crossing first base on a ground out and limped around for a while. He ultimately remained in the game. Brian McCann took a foul tip off the bare hand in the eighth but also remained in the game. Dean Anna is the emergency catcher, in case you’re wondering.

Beltran was the obvious star offensively, going 3-for-4. Brett Gardner went 2-for-4 in front of him, but the other seven batters went a combined 3-for-23 (.130) with three walks. Ellsbury singled, Solarte singled and walked, Kelly Johnson walked, and McCann doubled and walked. His double was off the very top of the wall in center field. Legitimately about three inches from being a homer.

And finally, the forgotten great play was Gardner throwing Jackie Bradley Jr. out at the plate to end the second inning. Grady Sizemore slapped a single to left and Gardner made a perfect throw to cut the run down. If Bradley scores, the entire complexion of the game changes.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, go to MLB.com. For some nerdier stats, go to FanGraphs. For the updated standings, go to ESPN. The Yankees are in first place with the win. Well, tied for first with the Blue Jays and Rays, anyway.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
After starting the season with 13 games in 13 days, the Yankees will enjoy their first scheduled off-day of the 2014 season on Monday. They will reconvene at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night, when the Cubs come to town for a quick little two-game interleague series. Masahiro Tanaka and Jason Hammel is your series-opening pitching matchup. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for one or both games.

Categories : Game Stories
Comments (79)
  • Update: MRI negative on Brian Roberts’ back

    10:22pm: An MRI can back negative, the Yankees announced. Roberts will be re-evaluated in a few days.

    8:44pm: Via George King: Brian Roberts is not playing tonight because of a back problem. “Not sure if it’s serious,” said Brian Cashman. Roberts has a very long injury history, so anything that causes him to miss time is a big red flag. With Derek Jeter’s quad acting up and Robertson banged up, the Yankees are woefully short on infielders at the moment.
    · (20) ·

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