Game 91: Reverse Trap?


About four years ago, this afternoon’s pitching matchup would have been a gem. CC Sabathia vs. Felix Hernandez. Two of the ten best pitchers in the game. Now it’s lopsided and not in the Yankees’ favor. Sabathia has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball over the last three seasons while Felix remains one of the best. Not a good matchup!

Of course, the Yankees clobbered Hernandez last month, scoring seven runs in 4.2 innings after he started the game with three perfect innings on 21 total pitches. Hopefully today is a reverse trap game. The kind of game with a pitching matchup so lopsided the exactly opposite of what everyone expects to happen happens. That would be nice.

I’m not going to be home in time to post the lineups, so I will direct you to Chad Jennings for New York’s batting order. Carlos Beltran was activated off the DL and Rob Refsnyder was sent down, which is dumb, but the Yankees haven’t exactly shined with their decision making lately.

It’s nice and sunny in the Bronx this afternoon. Hot too. The game is scheduled to begin a little after 1pm ET and you can watch on WPIX locally. Enjoy.

The Crossroads

So much of mainstream baseball analysis is done in black and white: this player is good; this player is bad. This team is good; this team is the Red Sox. Of course, we know the waters are a lot muddier than this and that there are varying shades of gray between the black and white/us and them style analysis that we still see on TV and hear on the radio, especially when it comes to when a team should win–you know what I’m talking about: the (perceived) differences between Win Now and Win Later teams. Analysts and pundits always point to the Yankees as a Win Now team because they have a big payroll, lots of stars, and tend to win a whole lot of games. But as a former denizen of these parts used to say, the Yankees are not a Win Now team; they are a Win Now and Later team–they want to maximize success in the present to help guarantee success in the future.

In the present, the Yankees are winning their division by 3.5 games and seem to have good odds at making the playoffs. They’re also constructed as they have been in the past, with multiple high salary players spread across the field. As for the future, the Yankees do have some promising young players on the horizon. In terms of prospects, Rob Refsnyder is already up in the Majors while Greg Bird, Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and others are approaching the doorstep, readying themselves to knock. In terms of non-prospects, the Yankees’ two  best starters–Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka–are on the right side of 30, as is the entire bullpen (save for Andrew Miller). Additionally, their trade acquisitions this year–Didi Gregorius and Nathan Eovaldi–still have room to grow as well. Despite this fairly good set up, though, the 2015 does feel a touch incomplete, doesn’t it? After all, just last week I wrote about being fairly surprised that the Yankees were in this good a position. I guess that’s what having a somewhat shaky starting rotation and a black hole at second base will do to you, huh?

Like all teams at this time of the season, the Yankees are at a crossroads. Given their position at the top of the American League East, it’s clear they’re going to walk down Buyer’s Road, but how far will they go? Will they settle for the decent houses on the beginning of the block, or will they go straight down to the end and buy the big places with a view? Will they make subtle improvements or go as far as I have in torturing this metaphor?

On one hand, the improvements the Yankees could make to the team–adding a starter or a better option at second base–could help secure this season. Whether it’s a marginal upgrade guy like Mike Leake or a big time splash like Johnny Cueto or (be still my heart) Cole Hamels, another starting pitcher would improve this team greatly. And while relegating Stephen Drew to the bench is never a bad thing, there’s always a chance that Refsnyder doesn’t play well in his first stint with the big club. Making a move to get another second baseman would likely give the team a stronger performance over the last two months of the season and give Refsnyder a bit more development time.

On the other hand, the Yankees are still positioned well for a playoff run despite their rotation struggles. Their top two in the rotation have the potential to dominate a short series, as does their absolutely lockdown bullpen. The lineup also features strong hitters from the leadoff spot through the fifth spot, thanks to the offensive resurgences of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Brian McCann. That set up–two big starters, a dominant bullpen, and a solid top of the order–is what you need come playoff time. If you’ve already got that, you may not need to give up future assets to push you over the top; just keep climbing and maybe you’ll do it yourself.

So, should the Yankees hold firm or sell some of their pieces? Yes. I don’t know. I’ve ping-ponged back and forth on this for the last few weeks. Part of me thinks that the state of the division and their place in it mean they should go for it with the hopes of getting hot in October. But the other part of me thinks that this team probably isn’t good enough to win a championship–even with the plaudits I’ve thrown their way in this post–so why sell of valuable future assets for a smaller-than-desired reward? Perhaps this is the young, late-90’s Yankee fan in me talking, but my gut says sell the prospects; flags fly forever and tomorrow is certainly not guaranteed (though I’d prefer not to trade Aaron Judge unless it’s in a Cole Hamels package). Even my declarative statements on this issue are tempered. I’m just glad I’m not the one that has to make the ultimate decision here, ’cause there damn sure isn’t any easy answer.


DotF: Sanchez homers in first Triple-A game, Mateo steals 62nd base of the season

Triple-A Scranton (6-3 loss to Louisville)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 K, 1 SB
  • LF Jose Pirela: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SB
  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K — exactly one hit in nine of this last eleven games
  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 CS — three-run dinger in his first Triple-A at-bat … 13 homers in 59 games this year after 13 homers in 110 games last year
  • SS Cole Figueroa: 2-4
  • RF Tyler Austin: 0-4, 3 K
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 2.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 WP, 4/1 GB/FB — 28 of 48 pitches were strikes (58%) … didn’t take long for him to get back into the rotation
  • RHP Danny Burawa: 2.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 3 WP, 5/0 GB/FB — 24 of 53 pitches were strikes (45%)
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 2 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 17 of 24 pitches were strikes (71%) … that’s much better
  • RHP Wilking Rodriguez: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K — 14 of 23 of pitches were strikes (61%)

[Read more…]

Saturday Night Open Thread

On this date 16 years ago, David Cone tossed the 16th perfect game in baseball history and the Yankees’ second perfect game in about 16 months. Cone retired all 27 Expos he faced (box score) for what is still the only perfect game thrown during an interleague play matchup. I remember missing the first four or five innings, having no idea what was going on because this was before smart phones, then getting home to watch the last few innings and feeling like I was watching the end of Game Seven of the World Series. It was intense. What a fun afternoon.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing tonight, FOX Sports 1 is showing the Reds and Indians for some reason (Kluber vs. DeSclafani), and MLB Network will air some regional games later tonight. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s loss, Cone’s perfect game, or anything else right here.

Comeback falls short, Cano crushes Yanks in 4-3 Mariners win

Annoying game is annoying. Losses happen, that doesn’t bother me, it’s just how they lost. Getting smacked around by Robinson Cano, almost coming back in the ninth inning but falling short … blah. The Mariners won Saturday’s game 4-3.


Too Much Rest, Too Much Cano
The “too much rest” monster came to get Michael Pineda again. Or at least that will be the excuse. Pineda allowed four runs on six hits and two walks in six laborious innings, serving up two two-run home runs to Cano. They were both bombs — one to center, one into the second deck in right field — and both pitches might as well have been on a tee. Cano also lined a single to left in his other at-bat against Pineda. Robbie’s enjoying his annual weekend of relevance with the Mariners.

Anyway, Pineda struck out two and walked two, and only 63 of 105 pitches were strikes (60%). His season average is 69%. Big Mike faced 25 hitters, threw only 13 first pitch strikes (52%, season average is 64.3%), and also went to five three-ball counts (20%, season average is 12.3%). All five were among the final eleven batters he faced. It was a grind for Pineda, and while I’m sure pitching on extra rest is tough for a pitcher who is such a creature of habit, it’s something he has to figure out. It’s part of being a pitcher. Pineda’s lucky only Cano made him pay for his mistakes on Saturday.


Just Short
Well it doesn’t really matter what Pineda or anyone else on the mound did. The Yankees only scored two runs against Hisashi Iwakuma and various relievers in the first eight innings, with both coming on Brian McCann‘s no-doubt two-run homer in the fourth. It was a quick little two-out rally — Mark Teixeira put together a quality at-bat before lacing a single, then McCann crushed a hanging split-finger pitch. Gone off the bat. That tied the game 2-2 after Cano’s first homer.

The Yankees had by far their best chance against Iwakuma in the sixth inning, immediately after Cano gave the Mariners a 4-2 lead. Jacoby Ellsbury led the sixth off with a ground ball single that snuck by not one, but two diving infielders, then Brett Gardner blooped a single to shallow left. The table-setters set the table. The Yankees had two on with no outs for the 3-4-5 hitters. Then Alex Rodriguez struck out, Teixeira grounded into a fielder’s choice, and McCann flew out. Rally dead after seven pitches.

Things got interesting in the ninth. Teixeira started the inning off with a booming double to center — it looked like a pop-up off the bat, but it just kept carrying until it hit the wall — and two batters later Chase Headley reached on a strikeout/wild pitch to put runners at the corners with one out. Fighting spirit! Garrett Jones got a run in by reaching out, swinging at ball four, and hitting a weak tapper to short. Didi Gregorius grounded out to end the game with the tying run on second. So it goes.


Chasen Shreve and Adam Warren threw the final three innings in relief of Pineda and combined to allow two base-runners. Shreve retired all five batters he faced while Warren walked Nelson Cruz and allowed a dinky little ground ball single to Mark Trumbo. The bullpen gave the offense a chance to get back into the game. Almost happened.

Somehow every starter except Jones and Rob Refsnyder had a hit. Didn’t seem like they had that many, huh? The Yankees didn’t draw any walks though, which was a bit of a problem. In fact, they saw four three-ball counts all game, including two against Carson Smith in the ninth. The Yankees scored three or fewer runs at home for just the 11th time this season. That’s the fewest in baseball.

And finally, one day after Ellsbury had his ugliest 0-for-4 of the season, A-Rod went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and looked pretty helpless at the plate. Iwakuma and Fernando Rodney got him to take some ugly swings. Baseball.

Box Score, WPA Graph, Standings & More
Here are the box score and video highlights for the game, and here are the updated standings. Also check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, because if you don’t, it means I’ve wasted a whole bunch of time this year. Here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Mariners will wrap up this three-game series on Sunday afternoon. The pitching matchup: CC Sabathia vs. Felix Hernandez. Not ideal!

Game 90: Big Mike vs. Mariners


It’s too bad Jesus Montero isn’t in the lineup for the Mariners this afternoon. Michael Pineda is making his second career start against his former team (two runs in six innings last month) but he has yet to face the player he was traded for in that January 2012 blockbuster. Can you believe this is already Pineda’s fourth season with the Yankees?

Anyway, the Yankees won the series opener last night and they’ve won five of their last six games overall. Their 4.5-game lead in the AL East is the largest division lead in baseball … and they also have the smallest leads over the third (4.5 games), fourth (five games), and fifth (7.5 games) place teams among the division leaders. The Yankees and Big Mike are in the driver’s seat. Just win, baby. Here is Seattle’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. RF Garrett Jones
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s cloudy and humid in New York, which usually means rain is on the way. There are some scattered thunderstorms in the forecast later today but not until the early evening. Shouldn’t be a problem unless the game goes into extra innings. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05pm ET and you can watch locally on YES and nationally on MLB Network, depending where you live. Enjoy.

Roster Move: The Yankees sent Bryan Mitchell to Triple-A Scranton and recalled Branden Pinder, the team announced. They’re sending Mitchell down so he can stretch back out and be a rotation option. I’ve really liked what I’ve seen out of him in relief, but he has thrown only 6.1 innings in the last 19 days. Getting stretched out would allow Mitchell to make some spot starts in the second half whenever the Yankees want to give the other starters extra rest, something they haven’t been able to do since Chase Whitley blew out his elbow.

Saturday Links: Trade Talks, Draft Picking Trading, Forbes

Irrelevant photo is irrelevant. (Presswire)
Irrelevant photo is irrelevant. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Angels Mariners continue their weekend series a little later today, so, until then, here are some links to help you pass the time.

Yankees already engaged in trade talks

This is no surprise, but assistant GM Billy Eppler confirmed the Yankees are already having trade conversations with other teams during a recent radio interview. The trade deadline is two weeks from yesterday. Here’s what Eppler said, via Brendan Kuty:

“I know (Brian Cashman) has been having conversations with clubs, will continue to have conversations with clubs. We kind of check in. I’ll check in with some counterparts and our scouts out in the field will have some conversations here and there and just kind of keep their ears open. Our antennas are up. There will be some conversations. And Cashman will have those conversations regarding what we might be able to do. He’ll take those to ownership. But often times the seller is the one with the leverage and it’s generally a seller’s market with an extra wildcard added in. There’s less players. Less clubs that are out there. So that shrinks your player pool and raises the acquisition costs of guys. And a lot of time the opportunity just doesn’t present itself.”

The team’s needs leading into the trade deadline are pretty obvious: pitching depth and a second baseman, preferably. I’m glad they’re giving Rob Refsnyder a chance right now, but I don’t feel too comfortable rolling with him as the everyday second baseman in a pennant race. Another right-handed bat for the bench would make sense too. Given their position in the standings and the fact the Yankees haven’t been to the postseason since 2013, I expect them to be aggressive at the deadline. The other four AL East teams are begging New York to run away with the division.

Trading draft picks will be discussed for next CBA

Over the All-Star break, commissioner Rob Manfred told Eric Fisher he would like teams to have flexibility by allowing them to trade draft picks. He expects that to be part of talks during the next round of Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations following the 2016 season. Right now only Competitive Balance Lottery picks can be traded. Only small market and low payroll teams get those.

I’m curious to see how trading picks would work. They’d have to limit it to the first round or something like that, right? Maybe the first three rounds? If teams were allowed to trade every pick, I’d ask for a 30-something rounder in every trade. Why not? Free lottery ticket. The Competitive Balance Lottery picks that have been traded the last few years have been traded for small-ish returns — relievers, mid-range prospects, etc. I’m curious to see how, say, a top five pick would be valued in a trade.

Yankees rank as second most valuable franchise in sports

According to the latest Forbes rankings, the Yankees are currently the second most valuable sports franchise in the world at $3.2 billion. Only Real Madrid ($3.26 billion) is worth more, though the Dallas Cowboys are tied with the Yankees are $3.2 billion. Barcelona ($3.16 billion) and Manchester United ($3.1 billion) round out the top five. The Dodgers rank second overall at $2.4 billion and are the second most valuable baseball franchise. Here’s the blurb from Kurt Badenhausen:

The Yankees lead a group of 12 MLB teams, up from six last year, in the top 50. Credit the massive influx of TV money, both nationally and locally, for soaring baseball values. The Yankees were one of the first teams to recognize the importance of TV with their launch of the YES Network in 2002. It has been the most-watched regional sports network in 11 of the past 12 years. Yankee Global Enterprises retains 20% of the RSN with Fox owning 80% after upping their stake in 2014.

The value of the Yankees is up 28%, and the team moved up two spots to tie for second place. The 27-time world champions missed the postseason for the second consecutive season in 2014 and only the third time since 1994, but the Bronx Bombers still finished tops in the American League in attendance, averaging 42,520 fans per game. The Yankees generated $676 million in revenue before deducting for $90 million in revenue-sharing payments and $78 million in bond payments that go towards stadium debt.

The Yankees don’t have a Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter retirement tour to lean on for a late-season attendance bump this year, but they are absolutely in contention, so that will help. There’s still an entire second half to go right now, but returning to the postseason is not a pipe dream, it’s a legitimate possibility. That will only improve the franchise’s value. The Yankees are a money-making machine. I truly believe the Steinbrenners will not sell the team, but, if they did, could they get $5 billion?