Game 156: Big Mike vs. the O’s


The final home series of the season is upon us. As much as this season sucked, I will dearly miss watching baseball in Yankee Stadium this winter just as I do every winter. The Yankees have to win all seven of their remaining games to make the postseason at this point, and even then they’ll need some help, so just sit back and enjoy the final week of the season. No point in stressing over anything. Just enjoy the baseball before it goes away. Here is the Orioles lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. C Brian McCann
  4. LF Chris Young
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. 1B Frankie Cervelli
  7. 2B Stephen Drew
  8. RF Ichiro Suzuki
  9. DH Jose Pirela
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s a wonderful day for baseball in New York. I little chilly but not too much. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Must Read Link: Derek Jeter story in NY Mag

You may have seen this already, but if not, NY Mag ran a great article that delved into Derek Jeter’s personal life, at least somewhat. The Cap’n is a very private person but he opened up a bit to author Chris Smith and photographer Chris Anderson. He spoke about his post-retirement plans, among other things. It’s an excellent piece and a must read for Yankees fans. Make sure you check it out.

Update: Yankees claim Eury Perez, designated Josh Outman

4:15pm: The Yankees announced that Josh Outman has been designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for Perez. No idea if he is with the team and available tonight though.

2:26pm: The Yankees have claimed outfielder Eury Perez off waivers from the Nationals, the team announced. No word on the corresponding 40-man roster move yet. They could be dumping a similar (and much older) player in Antoan Richardson or a spare arm like Josh Outman or Rich Hill. We’ll see.

Perez, 24, hit .311/.372/.406 (119 wRC+) with 20 steals in 57 Triple-A games this summer around injury. He has 13 big league plate appearances to his credit, all with the Nats from 2012-13. Baseball America ranked Perez as Washington’s 20th best prospect before the season and said he’ll likely be a speedy defense-first extra outfielder at the MLB level. With Jacoby Ellsbury (hamstring), Carlos Beltran (elbow), and Martin Prado (appendectomy) all hurt, the Yankees simply need a healthy body for the outfield right now.

9/22-9/25 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

The final homestand of the season and Derek Jeter‘s career is upon us. The season flew by, as it tends to do more and more with each passing year. The Orioles are in town for four games this week. They’re 11-4 against the Yankees this season, including 4-2 at Yankee Stadium.

What Have They Done Lately?
Baltimore lost two of three to the Red Sox at home this weekend, but they’ve already clinched the AL East title and are in full blown “rest everyone” mode. They’re 93-62 with a +116 run differential overall and are pretty much locked into having the second best record in the league. In all likelihood they will face the winner of the AL Central in the ALDS.

At 4.39 runs per game with a team 105 wRC+, the Orioles have an above-average offense that leads baseball with 202 homeruns. No other team has more than 179. OF Nick Markakis (101 wRC+) and 1B/OF Steve Pearce (162 wRC+) are both day-to-day with shoulder and wrist injuries, respectively. Neither has played for a few days now and they’ll get as much time as needed. C Matt Wieters (Tommy John) and 3B Manny Machado (knee) are both done for the year following surgeries and 1B Chris Davis is out following an amphetamines-related suspension.

Jones. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Jones. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Despite all those injuries, manager Buck Showalter still has OF Adam Jones (118 wRC+) and OF Nelson Cruz (137 wRC+) in the middle of his lineup. Cruz has been sitting on 39 homers for two weeks now. It would be cool if he didn’t hit No. 40 in the Bronx. SS J.J. Hardy (93 wRC+) and waiver trade pickup OF Alejandro De Aza (96 wRC+) are among the other lineup regulars you’ll recognize. OF Delmon Young (121 wRC+) is getting more at-bats due to the injuries and ex-Yankee IF Kelly Johnson (80 wRC+) is splitting time at third with ex-Yankees farmhand UTIL Jimmy Paredes (143 wRC+ in limited time).

C Caleb Joseph (78 wRC+) and C Nick Hundley (73 wRC+) are the primary catchers with Wieters out. IF Ryan Flaherty (78 wRC+) and IF Jonathan Schoop (65 wRC+) see plenty of time all around the infield. OF David Lough (89 wRC+) has been the defense-first extra outfielder all season. C Steve Clevenger, 1B Christian Walker, and OF Quintin Berry are the extra September call-ups. The Orioles have 17 position players on the active roster right now, including Markakis and Pearce. I don’t know why, but that seemed like a lot at first glance. Normal by September standards though.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BAL) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (vs. NYY)
Chen, 29, has gotten better in each of his three full seasons in MLB. He has a 3.58 ERA (3.97 FIP) in 29 starts and 173.2 innings this year. His walk rate (1.66 BB/9 and 4.4 BB%) is excellent but his strikeout (6.69 K/9 and 17.9 K%), homer (1.19 HR/9 and 11.1 HR/FB%), and ground ball (40.1%) numbers don’t jump out at you. Righties (.327 wOBA) have been a better against Chen then lefties (.307 wOBA), and he’s been better on the road (.306 wOBA) than at home (.335 wOBA). Low-90s two and four-seamers set up low-80s changeups and sliders. He’ll also throw a few mid-70s curveballs per start. The Yankees have seen Chen just once this year, scoring four runs in five innings way back in April.

Tuesday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. BAL) vs. TBA
Wednesday: RHP Shane Greene (vs. BAL) vs. TBA
Thursday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. BAL) vs. TBA
The Orioles are currently in the process of setting up their ALDS rotation, so they have not yet announced their starters for this series beyond Chen. RHP Bud Norris (3.62 ERA and 4.19 FIP), RHP Kevin Gausman (3.57 ERA and 3.49 FIP), and RHP Chris Tillman (3.26 ERA and 4.09 FIP) are lined up to start Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, respectively. Tillman was the team’s Opening Day starter and he’s likely to get the ball in Game One of the ALDS on October 2nd, meaning he’d have to start either Friday or Saturday this week to stay on turn. The Yankees might not see him at all this series. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (4.90 ERA and 4.74 FIP) has been banished to the bullpen but recently made a spot start and will probably make another sometime this week so the good pitchers can get lined up for the postseason. Showalter is expected to announce his rotation for the rest of the week sometime today, either before or after tonight’s game.

Britton. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Britton. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Bullpen Status
Showalter’s setup man/closer combination features two lefties who can get righties out: LHP Andrew Miller (1.30 FIP) in the eighth and LHP Zach Britton (3.17 FIP) in the ninth. They’ve both been used lightly over the last week or so as the team preps for October. RHP Darren O’Day (3.35 FIP) and RHP Tommy Hunter (3.18 FIP) will also see important innings.

The rest of the bullpen regulars include RHP Brad Brach (3.64 FIP), RHP Ryan Webb (2.71 FIP), LHP T.J. McFarland (3.30 FIP), and LHP Brian Matusz (4.03 FIP). RHP Evan Meek and LHP Joe Saunders are the extra September arms. I suppose Saunders could make a spot start this week, if needed. Webb (11 pitches), Meek (18), and McFarland (12) all pitched yesterday. Check out the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen at our bullpen Workload page. Camden Chat is the place to go for everything you need to know about the Orioles.

Plenty of positive signs in Tanaka’s return to the rotation

(Andy Marlin/Getty)
(Andy Marlin/Getty)

Even though they’re a long shot to make the postseason, yesterday afternoon’s win over the Blue Jays was one of the most important games of the season for the Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka returned to the rotation after missing more than three months with a partially torn elbow ligament, an injury that usual requires Tommy John surgery. But, because his tear was small (supposedly less than 10%), doctors recommended rehab.

Tanaka threw a handful of bullpen sessions and pitched in three simulated games while rehabbing, but nothing can simulate real game action. It’s one thing to feel good while throwing without much adrenaline against a bunch of teenage minor leaguers in Tampa. It’s another to feel good while facing actual big leaguers looking to do damage in front of a packed stadium with 50,000 fans in attendance.

“I was able to go pretty strong today, so I’m relieved. I feel that I was able to do all of the things that I wanted to do,” said Tanaka to Vince Mercogliano following yesterday’s start. “Obviously (the elbow felt) way better today (compared to the last start before going on the DL). I don’t remember exactly when, but gradually as the game went on, I guess I forgot about it.”

To my untrained eye, Tanaka looked like, well, he looked like Masahiro Tanaka. His fastball velocity was down a bit but I expected that after the long layoff. He didn’t have a whole lot of time to build arm strength. Tanaka not only did not shy away from his breaking pitches — the pitches that supposedly put the most stress on the elbow — he actually shook off Brian McCann to get to his slider and splitter on several occasions. He threw them in situations he would normally throw them. Here’s a quick breakdown of his pitch selection, courtesy of Brooks Baseball:

Four-Seamer Sinker Splitter Slider Curve
Pre-Injury % 22.0% 19.3% 25.8% 21.5% 5.4%
Per-Injury Velo. 92.8 91.6 87.4 84.1 74.6
Sunday % 25.7% 27.1% 21.4% 10.0% 15.7%
Sunday Velo. 90.2 90.2 85.5 81 73.2

I wouldn’t obsess over Tanaka’s pitch selection from yesterday’s start since it was just one start. A short 70-pitch start at that. What he lacked in sliders he made up for in curveballs — “My curveballs were pretty sharp today, so that’s why I was throwing that a lot … I wanted to go out there and check all of my pitches,” Tanaka said to Mercogliano — and his four-seamer and splitter usage was in line with the rest of the season. It would have been a red flag if Tanaka had thrown, say, 80% fastballs and just few splitters or sliders, something that may have indicated he was nursing the elbow. That isn’t the case though. If he was trying to protect the elbow in some way, it doesn’t show in his pitch selection.

Tanaka’s biggest issue on the afternoon was his location. This guy was damn near pinpoint with his command earlier in the season, but yesterday his ability to locate was nowhere to be found, especially in the early inning. It did get a little better as the game wore on, though it never got back to what he showed earlier in the season. Tanaka was missing with fastballs by the full width of the plate at times:

Missed the target by thaaat much.
Missed the target by thaaat much.

He missed by a significant amount with several other pitches as well, both side-to-side and up-and-down. It wasn’t every pitch — he hit the glove and dotted the corners a bunch of times as well — but much more often than we saw in any of his pre-injury starts. Elbow problems usually result in poor location — a drop in velocity tends to indicate a shoulder problem — but I think this was simply rust. Tanaka mentioned he didn’t feel all the way back to normal following his last simulated game. The location is something to watch in his next start, sure, but I’m not concerned yet.

Most importantly, Tanaka looked like a healthy pitcher yesterday. He did not appear to be tentative — “He just went after it, the way you’re used to seeing him do,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild to Brendan Kuty — and he didn’t labor in any way. Tanaka wasn’t taking a lot of time between pitches or anything like that, which pitchers will commonly do if they’re uncomfortable or not 100% physically. He looked like Masahiro Tanaka with bad control, and I think that represents the best case scenario for yesterday given the circumstances. The closer he looks to normal, the better.

Tanaka’s situation is a new experience for everyone. Well, at least to fans. The Yankees claim to have had pitchers in the organization successfully rehab a partial tear like this. We’ve never seen anything like this though. We’re used to seeing a tear — even a partial one — result in Tommy John surgery almost immediately. Everything about Tanaka is unique, from his background to the way he joined the team to his extreme competitiveness, and this injury is no different. Too many pitchers have gone down with Tommy John surgery in 2014, but based on everything we saw yesterday, it looks like Tanaka just might be the pitcher who beats it.

Fan Confidence Poll: September 22nd, 2014

Record Last Week: 4-3 (20 RS, 22 RA)
Season Record: 80-75 (597 RS, 628 RA, 74-81 pyth. record) 13.0 GB in ALE, 4.5 GB of WC
Opponents This Week: vs. Orioles (four games, Mon. to Thurs.), @ Red Sox (three games, Weds. 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?

Sunday Night Open Thread

Six years ago today, the final game at the old Yankee Stadium was played. The Yankees won that game 7-3 over the Orioles. Here’s the box score. Jason Giambi had the last hit and Jose Molina had the last homer at the old ballpark. Andy Pettitte started and Mariano Rivera recorded the final three outs. Derek Jeter gave a memorable speech (video above) and the team made a trip around the warning track after the game. I remember watching it and feeling like they had just won the World Series. It was that kind of ceremony. Never gonna forget that night.

Here is your open thread for the last few hours of the weekend. The ESPN Sunday Night Game kinda stinks, it’s the Reds at the Cardinals (Simon vs. Lynn). The late NFL game is the Steelers and Panthers. Talk about those games, the final game at Yankee Stadium, this afternoon’s win, or anything else right here.