A-Rod homers for 3,000th hit; Yankees beat up on Tigers in 7-2 win

So yeah, this was my favorite game of the season. It started with history in the first inning and ended with the Yankees’ third straight win, this one a 7-2 win over the Tigers. Pretty great.

History With An Exclamation Point
It took one pitch. With two outs and the bases empty in the first inning, Alex Rodriguez deposited Justin Verlander’s first pitch fastball into the right field seats for a quick 1-0 lead and his 3,000th career hit. The Yankee Stadium crowd went crazy and the Yankees came out of the dugout to congratulate Alex. It wasn’t a Derek Jeter celebration — we’re never going to see that again, A-Rod or otherwise — but it was a pretty great moment overall.

A capital-T Tool named Zach Hample caught the ball and was unwilling to discuss a trade with the Yankees, so says Bryan Hoch. “I think that someone like Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez, who has made half a billion dollars in his career, doesn’t really need a favor from a normal civilian and a fan like me,” he said to Brendan Kuty. Hample literally wrote a book on catching baseballs and he goes around to various parks to get balls, pushing people out of the way and tricking players into thinking he’s a fan of their team. And he hates the Yankees. So weak. Pretty much the last guy who deserves the ball.

Anyway, hopefully Alex gets the ball back at some point. A-Rod’s made a lot of history in his career but I’m sure his 3,000th hit ball is one piece of memorabilia he wants to keep. I know I would. A-Rod is the 29th member of the 3,000-hit club and one of three to go deep for the milestone hit, joining Jeter and Wade Boggs. Three World Champion Yankees.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Starting Pitchah
There was still a game to be played after A-Rod got his 3,000th hit out of the way nice and early. Adam Warren ran into trouble in the second inning and allowed two runs when four of the first five batters reached base. Victor Martinez blooped a single, Yoenis Cespedes doubled into the left field corner, Nick Castellanos took a pitch to the hand (barely), and Bryan Holaday singled in two runs. Warren was able to limit the damage to just the two runs that inning.

Following Holaday’s single, Warren went on to retire eleven straight Tigers before Ian Kinsler opened the sixth with an infield single. Miguel Cabrera followed that with a single to right and Chase Headley whiffed on Carlos Beltran‘s throw from right field when Kinsler went first-to-third, but, thankfully, Headley chased the ball down, fired to the plate, and John Ryan Murphy was able to jump to catch the throw and apply the tag to get Kinsler. Headley failed to catch the throw but recovered to get the out at home. Let’s pretend he did it on purpose.

The bullpen was a little short because of recent workloads, so Joe Girardi sent Warren back out not only for the seventh inning, but the eighth as well. He got through those last two innings on 18 total pitches. Just perfect. Two runs, seven hits, no walks, seven strikeouts, 110 pitches. Just three of the last 21 batters he faced reached base. What a stud. Warren’s a starting pitcher. Find someone else to send to the bullpen.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Return Of The Dingers
Prior to Thursday’s game, the Yankees had scored a total of 21 runs in their previous seven games. Not coincidentally, they hit only three home runs during that time. The offense broke out with two homers on Thursday and it carried over into Friday — A-Rod hit his homer, Didi Gregorius swatted a solo shot to tie the game 2-2 in the second, then Brett Gardner ripped the two-run go-ahead homer in the fifth. Dingers! They’re back.

Just to show off their diverse attack, the Yankees tacked on two more runs in the seventh inning while hitting one ball out of the infield. Gardner laid down a perfect bunt single to start the rally, Headley ripped a single literally off Verlander — it hit him in the foot and bounced away from the infielders — and then Gardner scored on a wild pitch. The ball didn’t get too far away from the plate, Gardner was aggressive and it paid off. Mark Teixeira singled in Headley to cap the rally. That was the one ball to leave the infield. Chris Young doubled and Gardner singled to create another run in the eighth. Dingers and manufactured runs. Everyone’s happy.

I WANT A HUG TOO! (Presswire)
Dammit I love this photo. (Presswire)

Leftovers
Gardner, who not that long ago was in a bit of a slump, went 4-for-5 with the homer and the bunt single. When he goes the offense goes. Great game for him. Everyone in the starting lineup except Beltran had at least one hit and Young even picked up a hit off the bench. (Young was in the game because Mason Williams exited with a jammed shoulder.) Thirteen hits and two strikeouts for the offense. That’ll do.

Warren’s eight innings and the late tack-on runs meant the usual relievers got the night off. The just called up Branden Pinder was the only reliever to not just get in the game, but the only reliever to warm up. He allowed a single to Cabrera in the ninth (whatever, it happens) then retired the next three batters to close things out. The bullpen needed that.

And finally, there was some really fine shortstop play in this game. Both Gregorius and Jose Iglesias made some tremendous plays ranging both to their left and their right. It was a shortstop clinic. Lots of fun to watch.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Now here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Tigers continue this three-game series on Saturday night, but, before that, it’s the 69th annual Old Timers’ Day. The Yankees are also honoring Willie Randolph with a plaque in Monument Park. The ceremony starts at 4pm ET and the game at 7pm ET. Nathan Eovaldi and Alfredo Simon will be the pitching matchup. Head over to RAB Tickets should you make a last minute decision to attend Old Timers’ Day. It’s always fun.

Update: Mason Williams exits game with jammed shoulder

9:40pm: Williams left the game with a jammed right shoulder, the Yankees announced. He was looked at by the team doctors and no tests are scheduled at this time. Sounds like good news to me.

8:52pm: Mason Williams left tonight’s game with an apparent right (throwing) shoulder injury in the fifth inning. He hurt himself diving back into first base on a pickoff throw. The trainers looked him over and Williams did stay in to run the bases, but he was removed from the game between innings. Hopefully it is just precautionary.

Williams, 23, went 1-for-2 before leaving the game and is 6-for-21 (.286) with two singles, three doubles, and one homer in eight games. The Yankees do have Ramon Flores waiting in Triple-A should Williams miss time, but they’re already without Jacoby Ellsbury and Slade Heathcott. Losing another outfielder would be no bueno.

The Yankees haven’t released an update on Williams yet, so stay tuned.

Game 67: One Away

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Thanks in part to Sam Dyson, Alex Rodriguez comes into tonight’s series opener with the Tigers just one hit shy of 3,000 for his career. A-Rod has great numbers against Justin Verlander — .294/.415/.676 in 41 plate appearances — but I’m not sure if that means anything for tonight. Most of those numbers come from many years ago, when A-Rod was a different hitter and Verlander was a different pitcher.

More important than the 3,000th hit is the Yankees’ third straight win, or their pursuit of it. The offense finally broke out late in last night’s game — they scored six runs in the seventh and eighth innings after scoring eight runs in the first 32 innings of the series — and hopefully it will carry over into today. The AL East is annoyingly close. You’re gaining ground or losing ground on like three teams with every win or loss. Here is the Tigers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 2B Stephen Drew
  8. C John Ryan Murphy
  9. CF Mason Williams
    RHP Adam Warren

It’s hot and humid and a little cloudy today, but there’s no rain in the forecast. Tonight’s game will begin a bit after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) took batting practice again and continues to progress in his rehab … Sergio Santos was placed on the 15-day DL with right elbow inflammation, the Yankees announced.

Roster Move: Bryan Mitchell and Branden Pinder were both called up, the team announced. Chris Martin was sent down and Santos was placed on the DL. Jose DePaula is still around as the long man, so I’m curious see if Mitchell gets some time in short relief. I like that idea.

6/19 to 6/21 Series Preview: Detroit Tigers

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The homestand continues this weekend with a three-game series against the Tigers. The Yankees played a four-game set in Detroit earlier this year, winning three of four and coming very close to sweeping the four games. Too bad whatever happened in April won’t help them this weekend.

What Have The Tigers Done Lately?

The Tigers dropped two of three to the Reds earlier this week before yesterday’s series finale was rained out. Todd Frazier hit an extra-innings walk-off grand slam on Wednesday and the Tigers had to deal with that bad taste in their mouth for one extra day thanks to the rain. Yuck. Detroit is 34-32 with a +3 run differential overall. They’re in third place in the AL Central.

Offense & Defense

Depending on which measure you prefer, the Tigers are either an average offense (4.18 runs per game) or a comfortably above-average offense (106 wRC+). They’ve done well with runners in scoring position (117 wRC+), so I guess the problem is not enough solo homers. Too few homers!? Anyway, the Tigers are without C Alex Avila (knee) but will get DH Victor Martinez (51 wRC+) back off the DL today. V-Mart has been out the last few weeks with a knee problem.

Miggy. (Presswire)
Miggy. (Presswire)

As always, manager Brad Ausmus’ lineup is anchored by 1B Miguel Cabrera (186 wRC+), who is firmly in “historically great” territory now. He’s going to go down as one of the best right-handed hitters ever. OF Yoenis Cespedes (127 wRC+) and OF J.D. Martinez (122 wRC+) are provided some nice complementary corner outfield thump, and SS Jose Iglesias (122 wRC+) just keeps piling up hits. The OF Anthony Gose (97 wRC+) and OF Rajai Davis (116 wRC+) platoon in center field has been productive.

2B Ian Kinsler (98 wRC+) is having a down year and 3B Nick Castellanos (63 wRC+) has been dreadful, which I’m sure has the Tigers disappointed. The kid was billed as a big time hitter coming up through the minors yet it hasn’t worked out. He’s still only 23 though. C James McCann (82 wRC+) and C Bryan Holaday (101 wRC+) are the catching tandem with Avila out. No, James is not related to Brian. IF Josh Wilson (164 wRC+ in very limited time) and UTIL Andrew Romine (79 wRC+) fill out the bench.

The Tigers have really improved their defense the last two years and they’re very strong up the middle with McCann/Holaday, Kinsler, Iglesias, and Gose/Davis. Cespedes is good in left — more for his arm than his range — but Martinez and Castellanos are defensive disasters. Miggy’s fine at first. He’s good around the bag scooping throws in the dirt but won’t win any games with his range or arm.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Adam Warren (vs. DET) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (vs. NYY)
The Yankees were supposed to miss both Verlander and David Price this series — is missing Price a good thing at this point? the Yankees always seem to crush him — but yesterday’s rainout pushes Verlander back to tonight. He has made just one start this year after spending the first few weeks on the DL with a triceps injury. Verlander held the Indians to two runs on three hits and two walks in five innings last weekend. He struck out two and will probably be allowed to throw 100 or so pitches tonight after throwing 87 against Cleveland. Verlander’s trademark fastball is more low-to-mid-90s than high-90s these days, and he uses the heater to set up his mid-80s changeup and low-80s curveball. Like CC Sabathia, Verlander is no longer the pitcher he was a few years ago, but he’s still capable of tossing a gem every now and then.

Saturday (7pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. DET) vs. RHP Alfredo Simon (vs. NYY)
The Simon trade was a bit of a head-scratcher in the offseason but it’s worked out well — Big Pasta has a 2.58 ERA (3.47 FIP) in 12 starts and 76.2 innings. Neither his strikeout (18.0%) nor his walk (7.7%) rate are anything special, and his ground ball (42.2%) and homer (0.59 HR/9) rates don’t really match up, so who knows how long his current effectiveness will last. He’s been better against righties (.244 wOBA) than lefties (.310 wOBA). Simon, 34, is a four-pitch pitcher but it’s not the usual fastball/slider/changeup/curveball mix. He throws a low-90s two-seamer, a mid-80s cutter, a low-80s splitter, and a mid-70s curve. Simon held the Yankees to one run in 7.1 innings back in April.

Anibal. (Presswire)
Anibal. (Presswire)

Sunday (1pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. DET) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (vs. NYY)
The 31-year-old Sanchez has had a bad year by his standards, pitching to a 4.65 ERA (3.99 FIP) in 14 starts and 91 innings. Home runs (1.29 HR/9) and a lack of ground balls (39.3%) have been the main culprits, ditto his ineffectiveness against righties (.339 wOBA). Sanchez has done well against lefties (.279 wOBA) — he’s had a reverse split for a few years now, so this isn’t uncommon — and both his strikeout (22.3%) and walk (6.7%) numbers are in line with recent years. Sanchez is a kitchen sink guy with six pitches and I don’t mean that in a bad way. He just has a lot of weapons. Four-seamers, cutters, and sinkers in the low-90s set up his mid-80s splitter, mid-80s slider, and upper-70s curveball. Sanchez will throw just about anything in any count too. He’s really tough when he’s on, but that hasn’t been the case all that often this season. The Yankees didn’t face Sanchez when they played the Tigers in April. scored one run in 6.1 innings when they faced Sanchez in April.

Bullpen Status
You’re not going to believe this, but the Tigers have some bullpen problems this year. Crazy, I know. They come into the weekend with a 3.36 ERA (3.90 FIP) overall, ranking in the middle of the pack. It’s a top heavy bullpen though — RHP Alex Wilson (2.81 FIP), LHP Blaine Hardy (2.49 FIP), and RHP Joba Chamberlain (3.10 FIP) have been good. The rest of the ‘pen? Not so much.

Closer RHP Joakim Soria (4.55 FIP) is having major home run problems (1.75 HR/9) while RHP Al Aburquerque (4.46 FIP), LHP Tom Gorzelanny (4.66 FIP), and LHP Ian Krol (6.98 FIP) have been mediocre to bad. The Tigers were rained out yesterday, so their bullpen is mostly fresh. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page to check out the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, then head over to Bless You Boys for the latest and very greatest on the Tigers.

Yankeemetrics: Gone fishin’ (June 15-18)

Pineda's new dance move. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Pineda’s new dance move. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Al from Miami, the almost-hero
It was set up to be a perfect Hollywood moment — the prodigal son comes home and steps to the plate with the tying run on base and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and a chance to be the hero.

But there would be no storybook ending this time for Alex Rodriguez, who flied out to right field and sealed the Yankees 2-1 loss on Monday. A-Rod has homered in 31 different parks in his major-league career, but never in a stadium located in his hometown of Miami.

Mark Teixeira drove in the Yankees only run with a solo homer in the second inning. The only other Yankee besides Teixeira to get a hit was Didi Gregorius, who had a double and single; the rest of the Yankees were 0-for-23. Booooo. The three hits were the fewest for the Yankees in a game at an NL park since June 22, 2002 at San Diego.

E-oh no!-valdi
So it turns out that this little road trip to the land of sunshine and beaches was really bad for Yankee homecomings.

One day after Al From Miami made the final out in a one-run loss, Nathan Eovaldi, pitching in South Florida for the first time since being traded from the Marlins to the Yankees this winter, had the worst start of his career — and perhaps one of the worst by any pitcher in franchise history.

Eovaldi — who was tagged for eight runs and nine hits in 2/3 of an inning — became the first Yankee pitcher to give up eight runs and fail to get three outs since Bartolo Colon on July 14, 2011 against the Blue Jays. His nine hits allowed are the most for any Yankee that pitched fewer than one inning in a game over the last 100 seasons.

Somehow, this wasn’t the first time the Yankees were blown out by the Marlins. The 10-run loss matched the worst Interleague defeat suffered by a Yankee team — they lost 11-1 to the Florida Marlins on July 13, 2001 and 12-2 to the Mets on June 9, 2000.

HUGE Mike
Michael Pineda flirted with history on Wednesday night, but ultimately had to settle for just another dominating performance. Pineda threw six no-hit innings in the Yankees 2-1 win, before Christian Yelich homered to leadoff the seventh frame, the only hit that Big Mike would allow on the night.

It was his second start as a Yankee with at least eight strikeouts and no more than one hit allowed, a feat he also achieved Sept. 22 last year. The only other pitchers in franchise history with two starts like that are Bob Turley, CC Sabathia, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens.

A-Rod was on base four times with two walks and two hits, including an RBI single that gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the first inning. He’s the oldest Yankee with multiple hits and multiple walks plus an RBI in a game since a 42-year-old Enos Slaughter did it in June 1958.

Hook, line and sinker
The Yankees are streaking again … and this time it’s in the win column. After losing five of their previous six games, the Bronx Bombers have won two in a row. Muy bueno!

Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran had the big hits for the Yankees in the 9-4 win over the Marlins on Thursday night. Gardner’s two run homer tied the game at 3-3 in the sixth inning, and in the next frame, Beltran’s two-run blast gave the Yankees a 5-3 lead.

The Yankees are now 34-11 (.756) when Gardner homers in his career, and have a .577 win percentage in all other games. For Beltran, it was his 378th career homer, tying Matt Williams for 70th place all-time.

CC Sabathia turned in a quality start and struck out seven batters, but got a no-decision. The Marlins remain the only team that Sabathia has not beaten in his career. He was trying to become the third active pitcher (A.J. Burnett, Dan Haren) and 14th in major-league history to beat all 30 current MLB franchises.

Mailbag: Tex, Gee, Closer, Warren, Home Field Advantage

Got a dozen questions in this week’s mailbag. If you want to send us a mailbag question(s), use the “For The Mailbag” form in the sidebar. If you want to send us links or tips or anything like that, email us directly at riveraveblues (at) gmail (dot) com, especially if you want a reply. We can’t reply through the mailbag form. Thanks.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Dan asks: With Mark Teixeira’s resurgence this season, any chance the Yankees are able to trade him in the offseason with a year left on his contract, maybe even getting a decent prospect in return? With his defense, plenty of teams would be willing to take a one year flier on him.

I’m guessing a few teams would be willing to take on one year of Teixeira (Mariners? Padres? Tigers with Miguel Cabrera back at third? Athletics? Angels? etc.) but there are two problems with this. One, Teixeira has full no-trade protection thanks to his 10-and-5 rights, so that’s an obstacle. Two, does trading Teixeira benefit the Yankees? Maybe they get a decent prospect in return but probably not given his contract. They’d be out their first baseman and best power hitter to save $22.5M, which is not an amount that will hamstring this team. Teixeira has shown he’s still a pretty good hitter with a healthy wrist. I’m not sure the trade return would be enough to make it worthwhile. Teixeira seems more valuable to the Yankees in the lineup than as part of a trade, which is not something I thought I would be saying before the season.

Kip asks: Would you actually want all your team playing in the All-Star Game like how the Royals are currently set up or would you want most of your players getting a chance to relax at home and get ready for the second half of the season?

When I was younger I wanted to see every Yankee in the All-Star Game. Even the bench players. Now I want them all home and resting. I mean, yeah, I would have loved to have seen Dellin Betances pitch in the All-Star Game last year, but, in the grand scheme of things, the rest was better for Dellin and the Yankees. I still consider the All-Star Game a fun novelty and yes, I do watch every year, but I’m the point where I don’t mind if a Yankee doesn’t play. I guess it’s a win-win. It’s cool if a Yankee gets into the game and cool if they don’t.

George asks: Since the AL starting team for the ASG has so many Royals, do they still have to have one player from each team? Maybe we should have a maximum number any one team can send if everyone has to send one? Any minor league player from the Royals going?

Oh yeah, of course they still need at least one player from each team. Each roster is 34 players deep, so even if those eight Royals win the voting and start at their positions, that leaves 26 other roster spots for the remaining 14 AL teams. Close to two per team. And that doesn’t even count the guys who are named to the team but replaced on the roster later — pitchers who start the prior Sunday, guys who have to bow out to the injury, etc. Joe Torre used to always take a ton of Yankees to the All-Star Game each year simply because he could. I don’t like the idea of putting a limit on the number of players from one team but I could see the argument. Royals fans are voting like crazy. Let ’em have their fun.

Gannon asks: I’m sure they don’t keep stats for this, but can you remember an instance when a left handed batter hit a home run off the left field foul pole?

There are no stats for this as far as I know but I do remember this happening once. Well, sorta. Carlos Delgado hit a home run off the very bottom of the left field foul pole at Yankee Stadium back in 2008, but that was before the days of instant replay, and it was incorrectly ruled a foul ball. Here’s the video:

After the game home plate umpire Bob Davidson told Christian Red: “I —-ed it up. I’m the one who thought it was a —- foul ball. I saw it on the replay. I’m the one who —-ed it up so you can put that in your paper … No one feels worse about it than I do.” The Mets went on to win 11-2 (box score), so the non-homer call didn’t matter. I’m sure there have been other left-handed batters who have homered off the left field foul pole, but I can’t remember any.

Tom asks: If Betances does well closing while Andrew Miller is hurt (no reason to think he won’t obviously), will Joe Girardi revisit the co-closer idea when Miller comes back? Should he?

I hadn’t thought of that and I hope Girardi would revisit the idea. I like the co-closers plan. It seems like a good way to create some bullpen flexibility and get more platoon advantages. At the same time, both Betances and Miller are so insanely good that I’m not sure it would matter much. They both dominate righties and lefties. There is a financial incentive to letting Miller close — more saves for Dellin means larger salaries in his arbitration years, that’s just how the system works — and those savings might actually be more valuable than any platoon advantage gained with these two. They’re just so good.

Ethan asks: In your opinion, which Yankee starter (including Ivan Nova) has the most trade value?

I’d say Michael Pineda over Masahiro Tanaka for two reasons. One, fair or not, Tanaka’s elbow is viewed as a ticking time bomb. Two, Tanaka’s got a huge contract that hurts his value even if it is more than fair for a 26-year-old ace. Not many teams can afford him and that would limit his trade market. Pineda is not as good as healthy Tanaka but he is pretty great himself, and he’s both substantially cheaper and somewhat less of an injury concern. (I think?) I’d rank the trade value of the starters this way: Pineda, Tanaka, Nathan Eovaldi, Adam Warren, Nova, CC Sabathia. Warren’s only been a full-time starter for less than three months and Nova will be a free agent after next season.

Kevin asks: Now, the last time the Yankees drafted a defense-first shortstop in the first round it did not turn out very well. What makes Kyle Holder different than Cito Culver?

Holder is both a way better hitter and defender than Culver. Outside of the position and the reputation for being glove-first players, there’s not much of a comparison here. Holder did hit .348/.418/.482 at San Diego this spring and I’m not sure Culver could even do that. He hit .269/.320/.363 in rookie ball, remember. Cito is a really good defensive shortstop but Holder is on another level entirely. He’s just several grades better than Culver both at the plate and in the field. I understand why the comparison is being made and I get the skepticism surrounding Holder, but he and Cito aren’t all that similar.

Gee. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
Gee. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Scott asks: Any reason for the Yanks to take a flier on Dillon Gee?

Other than stashing him in Triple-A for depth — Gee does have at least one minor league option remaining, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said their plan was to send Gee to Triple-A if he clears waivers and they can’t work out a trade — not really. Gee has a little more than $3M left on his contract this year but that’s not a backbreaking amount to the Yankees. Gee is not very good (5.90 ERA and 4.39 FIP) but on a straight waiver claim, sure, stash him in Triple-A. That said, teams usually don’t spend $3M or so for seventh or eighth starters in Triple-A. It’s just not realistic.

Dustin asks: How about piggy-backing Warren after Nova for Nova’s first few starts back, as he ramps up his innings? That would keep Warren pitching while he’s hot and then ease him back into a late-inning pen role, while helping limit the pen usage for Nova’s first few starts and not putting too much pressure on stretching him out too soon.

I like the idea. It would keep Warren stretched out so he could easily slot back into the rotation if necessary, and it would effectively be a scheduled off-day for the rest of the bullpen. That said, Girardi would be working with a six-man bullpen the other four days, and you know he’d be itching to bring in Betances and Miller (once healthy) if he as a late lead in a Nova/Warren start. Who could blame him? I’d want to use Betances and Miller whenever possible too. I like the idea of piggybacking Nova and Warren, I just don’t think it’ll actually happen.

Jim asks: In last week’s mailbag you were asked how James Kaprielian compared with Mike Mussina; my question is what is your opinion on how Kaprielian compares with Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain, who were both 1st round college pitching selections by the Y’s?

Joba and Kaprielian aren’t really comparable. Joba had injury issues in college and his stock was down at the time of the draft — had he been fully healthy at Nebraska he probably would have been a top ten pick. He had nasty stuff, a mid-to-high-90s fastball and that wicked slider to go along with a curveball and a changeup. Joba’s stuff was better than Kaprielian’s but his command and health lagged. He developed into a top prospect, but, on draft day, Kaprielian was better than Joba.

The Kennedy comparison is much more appropriate but still not perfect. I mean, no comp is going to be perfect, but you catch my drift. Kennedy was a candidate to go first overall heading into the spring of 2006 before he had a subpar junior year. I think their secondary pitches are comparable but Kaprielian had more fastball — he was sitting 93-95 come April this year — while Kennedy had more command. Kennedy had (and still has, really) tremendous command and that’s why he was a considered a first overall pick candidate for a while. He’s the most appropriate comp for Kaprielian almost by default. I’d take 2006 Kennedy over 2015 Kaprielian. That’s just me.

Home field advantage. (Jamie Squire/Getty)
Home field advantage. (Jamie Squire/Getty)

Tamir asks: How can baseball decide which team in the World Series gets home field advantage in a better way? Clearly the current way is not ideal.

I agree. I don’t like the All-Star Game determining home field advantage in the World Series at all. The league can either have fans voting for the All-Star Game starters or having the All-Star Game decide home field advantage. Having both doesn’t really work. Years ago the AL and NL used to alternate home field advantage in the World Series which was equally dumb, if not worse.

I don’t understand why the team with the better regular season record doesn’t get home field advantage. Doesn’t that make the most sense? If they had the same record, the tiebreaker is head-to-head record during interleague play. If they didn’t play during the regular season, the next tiebreaker is run differential. Is that so hard? The team that had the better record in the regular season should get home field advantage in the World Series. That’s my take. Problem solved.

Joe asks: What pitcher had the highest game score for the Yankees in 2014? So far this year?

Game Score is a really simple stat created by Bill James that attempts to quantify the quality of a start in a single number. I’m not going to explain the entire calculation — here’s the Wikipedia page — but, in a nutshell, it’s a points system. Start with 50, add X points for good events (strikeouts, etc.) and subtract Y points for bad events (walks, runs, etc.). The average Game Score is around 50.

Three starts tied for the highest Game Score by a Yankee last season. Here’s the full list and here’s the top four, via Baseball Reference:

Player Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str GSc
Brandon McCarthy 2014-08-21 NYY HOU W 3-0 9.0 4 0 0 0 8 0 107 79 87
Masahiro Tanaka 2014-05-14 NYY NYM W 4-0 9.0 4 0 0 0 8 0 114 76 87
Masahiro Tanaka 2014-04-16 (1) NYY CHC W 3-0 8.0 2 0 0 1 10 0 107 76 87
Michael Pineda 2014-09-22 NYY BAL W 5-0 7.1 1 0 0 1 8 0 106 73 83

Those were the team’s only 80+ Game Scores last year. Only the Nationals (five), Indians (five), Dodgers (four), and Red Sox (four) had more starts with an 87+ Game Score last season. The single best Game Score in 2014 was Clayton Kershaw’s 15-strikeout no-hitter at 102. Here’s the full list. That would have been a perfect game if not for a Hanley Ramirez error. Womp womp.

As for this season, the Yankees’ best start by Game Score is not Pineda’s 16-strikeout masterpiece because he did allow a run, and runs are bad. Here’s the full list and here are the top five:

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str GSc
1 Masahiro Tanaka 2015-04-18 NYY TBR W 9-0 7.0 2 0 0 0 8 0 85 58 81
2 Michael Pineda 2015-05-10 NYY BAL W 6-2 7.0 6 1 1 0 16 1 111 81 77
3 Michael Pineda 2015-05-05 NYY TOR W 6-3 8.0 5 0 0 1 6 0 101 70 77
4 Masahiro Tanaka 2015-06-03 NYY SEA W 3-1 7.0 3 1 1 0 9 0 78 58 76
5 Michael Pineda 2015-06-17 NYY MIA W 2-1 6.2 1 1 1 2 9 1 100 63 75

The best start by someone other than Tanaka and Pineda this year was Chase Whitley‘s gem against the Blue Jays — that registered a 72 Game Score. The best start in baseball this season was Max Scherzer’s recent 16-strikeout one-hitter, which came in at an even 100 Game Score. Chris Heston’s no-hitter and Corey Kluber’s 18-strikeout game both check in at a 98 Game Score. I don’t think Game Score has a ton of analytical value, but I do think it’s useful for something like this, trying to decipher which start was better than another. It’s a “for fun” stat.