Game 120: End of the Homestand

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

This homestand felt longer than it really was, didn’t it? This was only a six-game homestand, but before that three-game swing through Boston, the Yankees had a five-game homestand. So eleven of their last 14 games have been in the Bronx. I have no idea where I’m going with this. Moving on …

The Yankees suffered a pretty brutal loss last night and the best thing about baseball is that it gives you a chance to turn the page quickly. They’re back at with the Blue Jays this afternoon, in the series finale. A win means a series win and a loss means a series loss. The Yankees need as many series wins as possible right now. It’s already Game 120. There’s not that much time left. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. DH Gary Sanchez
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 1B Tyler Austin
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. CF Aaron Hicks
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s a wonderful day for baseball here in New York. The unbearable heat and humid has finally subsided, so it’s a pleasant 84 degrees this afternoon with a nice breeze. Nice day to spend at the park. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Catcher Update: Joe Girardi told reporters Sanchez will be the primary catcher going forward and Brian McCann will be the DH. Just like that, McCann goes from being a good hitting catcher to a subpar DH.

Roster Move: The Yankees sent Chasen Shreve down to Triple-A Scranton and recalled Kirby Yates, the team announced. Anthony Swarzak remains on the roster for reasons I can’t understand at this time.

Thoughts following Nathan Eovaldi’s elbow injury


Yesterday afternoon the Yankees received bad news about Nathan Eovaldi, who will soon undergo surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon and a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. From what I understand it’s technically two surgeries, though they’re performed at the same time. Eovaldi was able to hit 94.9 mph last Wednesday even though his elbow was ripped to shreds. Pretty crazy. Anyway, I have some thoughts on the injury and what it means for the Yankees in the short and long-term.

1. The injury doesn’t hurt a ton in the short-term for a few reasons. For starters, Eovaldi hasn’t pitched all that well since June. He has a 5.77 ERA (6.31 FIP) in 64 innings since June 1st and that includes his 7.2 scoreless innings of relief. Even his most recent starts weren’t all that great, though I think it is fair to wonder whether the elbow injury contributed to those 64 miserable innings. (Does the elbow explain all the homers?) Secondly, September 1st is two weeks from tomorrow, so pretty soon the Yankees will be able to call up all the extra arms they desire. Even if guys like Chad Green and Luis Cessa prove to be five-and-fly pitchers every fifth day, the Yankees will soon have enough arms to carry the workload. (Eovaldi wasn’t exactly a workhorse himself.) There’s no such thing as too much pitching depth, so the Yankees will miss Eovaldi in that regard, but he’s been a liability more than a weapon for close to three months now. Losing him stinks. It’s not a season-sinker though.

2. There was reportedly interest in Eovaldi prior to the trade deadline — I wonder if the medicals stood in the way of completing a deal? — and the Yankees figured to again put him in the market in the offseason. Why not? They should listen to offers for literally everyone in the organization, even Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge. The injury means Eovaldi is no longer a trade chip and that stinks. I don’t like referring to human beings as assets but that’s what they are in the baseball world, so Eovaldi’s injury means the Yankees are losing an asset. He can’t pitch and they can’t trade him. That bites. The price for pitching is sky high these days — a few weeks ago the Rangers traded an actual prospect for Lucas Harrell (on purpose!) — and the Yankees might have been able to get a decent return for a healthy Eovaldi, especially if he finished the season well. Guys who throw 100 mph as starters are very rare.

3. I have to think the Yankees will non-tender Eovaldi after the season. He’s in line for more than $7M in 2017 as an arbitration-eligible player and there’s no reason to pay him that to sit on the DL all year, not when he’s going to be a free agent after the season. It’s a total waste of money. The Royals non-tendered Greg Holland this past offseason for that exact reason. I do wonder if the Yankees will look to re-sign Eovaldi after that though. They do have a history of signing pitchers coming off major injuries and waiting out the rehab. Jon Lieber back in the day is the most notable example. They’ve done it with David Aardsma and Andrew Bailey in recent years too. (I feel like there’s someone else I’m missing.) The Yankees clearly like Eovaldi and by all accounts he’s a hard-worker and coachable — example: learning the splitter last year, incorporating the cutter this year — and that’s the kind of guy you roll the dice with on a deal like this. How about a two-year contract worth $6M? Say $1M in 2017 as he rehabs and $5M in 2018, plus incentives based on innings? Just spitballing here.

(Norm Hall/Getty)
(Norm Hall/Getty)

4. The Yankees are going to have to add a starting pitcher this offseason, aren’t they? I mean, they don’t absolutely have to, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Keep things status quo and they’re looking at some combination of Green, Cessa, and Luis Severino behind the front three of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia. I guess Bryan Mitchell would be in that back-end mix too. Guys like Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Enns would be the depth arms in Triple-A, and uh, that doesn’t sound too great. At least not to me. Maybe you’re comfortable with that. The upcoming free agent market really stinks, so maybe the Yankees turn to the trade market for a veteran innings guy to stash in the back of the rotation. Even if they’re rebuilding and not planning to contend next season (lol), adding a starting pitcher makes sense.

5. We can more or less close the book on the trade now and boy did the Yankees come out on the wrong end of this one. David Phelps (3.73 ERA and 3.63 FIP) has out-pitched Eovaldi (4.45 ERA and 4.11 FIP) on a rate basis since the trade, albeit in way fewer innings (279 to 181), plus the Yankees gave up Martin Prado too. He’s hit .305/.356/.417 (109 wRC+) in over 1,000 plate appearances with the Marlins. The Yankees paid part of his salary as well. Garrett Jones was a zero and Domingo German has barely pitched since the trade due to Tommy John surgery. That’s rough. Maybe German will turn into the next Carlos Carrasco or something. That’s pretty much the only way the Yankees can salvage this trade. Now, that said, it doesn’t mean the logic behind the trade was bad. Trading a 31-year-old infielder and a spare swingman for a 24-year-old who throws 100 is the kind of trade the Yankees and every other team should look to make. This one didn’t work out. That doesn’t mean a) it was a bad idea, and b) you pass on making a similar trade in the future.

Bullpen Disaster: Yankees turn a 6-0 lead into a 12-6 loss to Blue Jays

That was a Very Bad Loss. Worst of the season, I’d say. The Yankees jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead Tuesday night, but the Blue Jays picked apart the bullpen and scored 12 (!) unanswered runs in the sixth through eighth innings. The 6-0 lead turned into a 12-6 loss. Brutal.

During happier times. (Rich Schultz/Getty)
During happier times. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

Gary Gives ‘Em The Lead
Another day, another young player doing things to help the Yankees. Things really have changed around here, huh? Tuesday night the Yankees got three early home runs from young players. Didi Gregorius opened the scoring with a first inning solo home run into the second deck in right field. I do love first inning runs. It takes the edge off right away, you know? Early leads are fun.

The Yankees kept tacking on runs after the first inning homer. Gary Sanchez whacked his third big league homer in the second inning, this one an impressive solo shot into the visiting bullpen. It was a full count changeup from Marco Estrada, a certifiable changeup master. Estrada showed him the changeup three or four times earlier in the at-bat, Sanchez read it out of his hand, then unloaded. It was pretty cool. That gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

Two innings later, Sanchez went deep again, this time clocking a three-run home run into the second deck in left field. Estrada left a 79 mph changeup up in the zone, so he basically gave Sanchez a batting practice fastball, and he unloaded on it. It was a very aesthetically pleasing home run. Look:

Gary Sanchez Marco Estrada

That is some bat speed right there I’ll tell you what. Sanchez put his A-swing on that hanging changeup and he topped it off with a subtle little bat drop. The gentleman’s bat flip. He must have learned that from Alex Rodriguez. Sanchez’s second blast gave the Yankees a 5-0 lead in the fourth. Thanks in part to Didi and Sanchez, the last 31 home runs hit by the Yankees have been hit by players under the age of 30. That’s pretty cool. The last over-30 guy to go deep was Mark Teixeira on August 3rd.

Five Innings if Big Mike
Mother Nature robbed Michael Pineda of what could have been six or even seven splendid innings. He limited the Blue Jays to four singles in five shutout innings while striking out two. Pineda threw only 68 pitches in those five relatively stress-free innings too. Then it started raining and the tarp was put on the field. It was a relatively short rain delay, only 42 minutes, but that was long enough to force Pineda out of the game. The Yankees didn’t want to push him after sitting that long. The pre-rain delay portion of the game was awesome. Everything after that was a nightmare.

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

Bullpen Disaster
The Yankees scored their sixth run immediately after the rain delay. Chase Headley doubled and Gregorius singled, both with two outs. That gave the Yankees a 6-0 lead. Everything is great! Go Yankees! They’re going to rally and make the postseason! Things were fun for a while. Then Anthony Swarzak & Co. vomited all over everything.

Swarzak replaced Pineda in the sixth and did what Anthony Swarzak does: give up dingers. He allowed a two-run shot to Troy Tulowitzki and a solo homer to Russell Martin in that sixth inning. A Headley era contributed to a run earlier in the frame. Just like that, Swarzak turned a 6-0 lead into a 6-4 lead in the span of two outs and 25 pitches. He’s now allowed nine homers in 27 innings this season, or 3.12 HR/9. There’s no reason for Swarzak to be on the roster tomorrow. None.

Okay. Alright. A 6-4 lead is still a lead, even if it’s not a 6-0 lead. The Yankees only had to get nine more outs to clinch the win, and their back-end relievers were fresh. Tyler Clippard came out and retired the side in order in the seventh. Good. This is good. Then the eighth inning happened. It was a total disaster. Worst half-inning of the season given the context of the game. Let’s recap the eight-run mess with an annotated play-by-play:

NYY vs TOR pbp 081616(1) That Josh Donaldson at-bat was one heck of an at-bat. It was a 12-pitch battle and Adam Warren showed him everything he had. Fastballs, sliders, changeups, curves … everything. He emptied the bag of tricks and still couldn’t get him out. That’s what an MVP does. He puts together tough at-bats like that. The Donaldson walk set the tone for the entire inning. The Blue Jays didn’t give away a single at-bat.

(2) Edwin Encarnacion’s game-tying home run was absolutely demolished. Warren missed out over the plate and Encarnacion crushed a no-doubter to left field. I was looked at my laptop at the time, not the television, and it could tell from the sound that it was gone. It was that kind of blast. Encarnacion is known to do that. Make a mistake to him and you’re going to pay big time. The two-run shot tied the game 6-6. The six-run lead was officially gone.

(3) The Martin at-bat was when it was clear Warren didn’t have it. The walk by Donaldson was a hard-fought at-bat by a great player and you tip your cap. The pitch to Encarnacion was a total mistake. It happens. But when Warren jumped ahead in the count 0-2 on Martin and couldn’t put him away, that’s when it was clear there was a problem. Warren made another mistake and Martin hit his second home run in the span of three innings, this one a two-run shot into the short porch. Suddenly that 6-0 lead had become an 8-6 deficit.

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

(4) Chasen Shreve has been amazingly bad over the last calendar year or so, and when the Blue Jays loaded the bases against him with one out, it was obvious things were about to get messy. Joe Girardi had more or less decided to punt the game at that point because no one was warming in the bullpen. Either Shreve was going to do the miraculous and stop the bleeding by retiring Travis and Donaldson with the bases loaded, or the Blue Jays were going to score more runs. They scored more runs. Many more runs.

(5) Five batters faced, zero outs. Shreve did not retire a single batter after replacing Warren on Tuesday night. Donaldson drew an always annoying bases loaded way to score Toronto’s tenth run and end Shreve’s evening. The tally up to this point: six runs on five hits, three walks, and hit-by-pitch. Ugly.

(6) Blake Parker, the third pitcher of the inning, replaced Shreve and got the potential inning-ending double play ball from Encarnacion. The ball wasn’t hit that hard and Starlin Castro‘s flip to Gregorius at the second base bag was a little too slow (surprise surprise), so the Yankees only got the one out. Another run scored and the inning continued. When it was all said and done, the Blue Jays led 12-6. Twelve unanswered runs in three innings against the bullpen.

I know it’ll never happen, especially not with Girardi and his assigned innings, but the eighth inning was the spot to use Dellin Betances. Two-run lead with Donaldson and Encarnacion due up? That calls for your best reliever. Warren’s been really good since the trade but he’s no Dellin, and he coughed up the game. Losing by one or two runs after blowing a 6-0 lead would have been excruciating. At least the bullpen had the decency to turn it into a laugher. Easier to turn the page this way.

After the Gregorius single that gave New York a 6-0 lead, the final 14 Yankees to bat made outs. Two of the 14 hit the ball out of the infield and eight struck out. Eight! Sometimes you just run into a buzz saw like Scott Feldman and Ryan Tepera and have to tip your cap. This really was like two different games. The stuff before the rain delay was cool. The stuff after was a disaster.

The homer was No. 16 of the season for Gregorius. That’s the most by a non-Derek Jeter shortstop in franchise history. Is that not crazy? That’s crazy. Also, this is only the fourth time in baseball history both catchers hit two home runs in the same game. It last happened in 2009, when Miguel Montero and Bengie Molina did it.

Jacoby Ellsbury went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and is down to .263/.326/.361 (86 wRC+) on the season. Can Girardi at least move him down in the lineup? Pretty please? I’m not holding my breath. Aaron Judge went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts as well. It’s his first hitless game in the bigs.

Sanchez, on the other hand, went 3-for-4 with the two homers and an infield single. He’s hitting .340/.367/.660 (173 wRC+) in his limited MLB time this season. More Gary, less Jacoby.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score, for the video highlights, then back to ESPN for the updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages either. Here’s the depressing as hell win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are going to have to shake off this miserable loss rather quickly. They wrap up this three-game set with the Blue Jays with a Wednesday matinee. That’s a 1pm ET start. Crafty lefties CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ will be on the bump. The Yankees leave for a six-game road trip after Wednesday’s game, so if you want to catch the last home game until next weekend in person, check out RAB Tickets.

DotF: Gamel’s walk-off single gives Scranton’s latest win

Some quick notes:

  • LHP James Pazos threw a simulated game this afternoon, reports Shane Hennigan. He’s been on the Triple-A DL since mid-June with an unknown injury. Pazos is getting healthy just in time for September call-ups.
  • Thanks to yesterday’s great start, RHP Chad Green made an appearance in today’s Prospect Report even though he’s in the big leagues. He’s still prospect eligible though, so there you go.

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 win over Norfolk, walk-off style)

  • LF Ben Gamel: 3-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI — walk-off single … had a walk-off single the other day too
  • CF Clint Frazier: 0-4, 1 K
  • 3B Rob Refsnyder: 1-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K — 5-for-14 (.357) since being sent down
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 0-4, 2 K
  • DH Mason Williams: 1-4, 1 R, 2 K
  • LHP Phil Coke: 4 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 5/2 GB/FB — 48 of 68 pitches were strikes (71%) … he had to make the spot start because they played doubleheaders Sunday and Monday
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 1/2 GB/FB — 31 of 49 pitches were strikes (63%) … 81/15 K/BB in 65 total innings
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 2 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 16 of 20 pitches were strikes (80%) … 83/7 K/BB in 58.1 innings

[Read more…]

Game 119: Gain ground on … someone

Judge is like a cartoon giant. (Presswire)
Judge is like a cartoon giant. (Presswire)

The Yankees may have long postseason odds, but until they’re mathematically eliminated, they’re still in the race and every game means something. There’s still seven weeks and a lot of head-to-head games to go.

Tonight’s game is a chance for the Yankees to gain ground on … someone. Right now the Orioles and Blue Jays are tied atop the division and the Red Sox, the second wildcard team, are one game back. The Yankees are playing the Jays while the O’s and BoSox meet in Baltimore. A win tonight means the Yanks gain a game on the Jays and whoever loses the Orioles-Red Sox game. That’s kinda big. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. SS Didi Gregorius
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. DH Brian McCann
  7. C Gary Sanchez
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. LF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Michael Pineda

Yet another hot and humid day in New York. There have been too many of these lately. It was raining earlier this afternoon and there’s more rain in the forecast later this evening, which is generally not good. Hopefully nothing that interferes with the game too much. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Rotation Update: No surprise here, but Chad Green and Luis Cessa are in the rotation going forward, Joe Girardi announced. Cessa is replacing Luis Severino, who was sent down following Sunday’s start.

Injury Update: In case you missed it earlier, Nathan Eovaldi will have surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon and a partially torn ligament. He did some serious damage to his elbow. Never pitch, kids.

Nathan Eovaldi to have surgery for torn flexor tendon and partially torn UCL

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Nathan Eovaldi‘s time with the Yankees may be over. Eovaldi will have surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon as well as a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, according to the various reporters at Yankee Stadium. The flexor tendon was torn right off the bone. Ouch. Those are two pretty significant injuries, obviously.

The Yankees have not announced a rehab timetable, but I think it’s safe to assume Eovaldi will miss the entire 2017 season. He is scheduled to become a free agent after next year, so chances are the Yankees will non-tender him this winter a la the Royals and Greg Holland. No need to carry him in 2017 only to have him become a free agent once he’s healthy.

Eovaldi has had Tommy John surgery before, way back in his junior year of high school. He threw almost 900 innings on the replacement ligament. There’s a pretty decent chance the injury will end Eovaldi’s time with the Yankees, though they’d always have the option to re-sign him, either after the season as a non-tender or when he becomes a free agent next year.

Over the last two years the 26-year-old Eovaldi had a 4.45 ERA (4.11 FIP) in 279 innings in pinstripes, which just isn’t good. The Yankees brought him in as an extremely hard-throwing project and pitching coach Larry Rothschild did teach Eovaldi a splitter, but it didn’t work out. So it goes. You win some and you lose some. This one is a loss.

The Yankees have bats on the way, now they need to figure out the pitching staff


Two days ago, in his latest return to the rotation, Luis Severino got roughed up by the Rays and didn’t make it out of the fourth inning. He looked pretty good at times and flat out bad at others. Severino wasn’t any better than he was earlier this season, when he was getting hammered every fifth day before landing on the DL. If he was better, it wasn’t a ton better. At least his slider has improved.

In the grand scheme of things, one start doesn’t mean a whole lot. We shouldn’t change our long-term view of Severino one way or the other based on 3.2 innings. Sunday night’s start was meaningful in the sense that the Yankees are trying to build a pitching staff for the future, and Severino keeps getting opportunities because the team hopes he is a big part of that pitching staff of the future. He still has an awful lot of upside.

“I think all players hit bumps, whether you’re young or old,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings after Severino was sent down following Sunday’s start. “But one thing I think part of our focus has to be is helping those kids get through those bumps, because you don’t get here unless you’re talented enough. You don’t just come from nowhere and all of a sudden stay here. But you got to help them get through the ups and downs.”

Much of the second half is going to be spent auditioning young bats. Gary Sanchez has been up for almost two weeks now and is playing regularly. Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge came up over the weekend and both have had an immediate impact, especially Judge. The Yankees still have Clint Frazier in Triple-A and other high-end position players like Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo in the low minors.

Not all of these guys are going to work out. We know that. That’s baseball, and that’s why it’s important to have as many high-end prospects as possible. The more you have, the more likely you are to end up with bonafide star(s), something the Yankees lack right now. We’ll see Sanchez and Austin and Judge in the coming weeks. Frazier is coming next year, and Torres and Mateo hopefully soon after that.

Pitching prospects are a very different story. The Yankees have high upside position player prospects but they lack potential impact pitching prospects, especially at the upper levels. There’s Severino, who technically isn’t a prospect but still kinda is, and … Chad Green? Luis Cessa? Chance Adams? New York’s best starting pitching prospects are in High-A (Justus Sheffield) or injured (James Kaprielian).

This is why the Yankees focused so much on adding controllable starting pitching during trade talks last offseason. Aside from Green, the four starters currently in the rotation can become free agents after next season. The Yankees hope Sheffield and Kaprielian will be ready by then, and hope that someone like Cessa or Severnino or Adams emerges as another piece, but relying exclusively on those players is kinda foolish.

The upcoming free agent markets are so bad. The best free agent pitcher this offseason will be either Doug Fister or Jeremy Hellickson, depending on your preference. Jake Arrieta will be a free agent after next season, but he’s going to turn 32 during Spring Training 2018, so the Cubs are getting the best years of his career right now. It’s entirely possible the best starter on the 2017-18 free agent market will be Masahiro Tanaka, assuming he opts out.

The sudden wealth of position player prospects can help the Yankees build the pitching staff going forward through trades. Like I said, not all of these guys are going to work out, and the key is determining who is worth keeping and who should be traded. This is much much much easier said than done. I can’t help but look at Torres and Mateo, two high upside shortstops at the same level, and think one of those dudes is getting traded for an arm soon.

Getting Severino on track is step one of building the rotation of the next great Yankees team. He is, by frickin’ far, the team’s best hope for a cheap frontline starter, Sunday afternoon’s start notwithstanding. The Yankees did a really nice job building a strong position player core not just at the deadline, but over the last few years. Now they need to shift gears and bring the pitching staff up to speed.