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?

A-Rod’s late home run gives Yanks 4-3 win over Mariners, Seager

The second half begins the same way the first half ended: with a win! A late homer gave the Yankees a 4-3 win over the Mariners on Friday night, extending their lead in the AL East to 4.5 games. That’s their largest division lead of the season. Good times.


Crushed By Kyle
Aside from the three times he faced Kyle Seager on Friday, Masahiro Tanaka pitched well. Well enough, anyway. Not great, not terrible. Seager was the problem though. Seattle’s third baseman lined out to left field in the first inning, then smashed a hanging slider for a solo home run in the third inning, then ambushed a first pitch fastball for a two-run home run in the fifth. The fastball was up and it was a moonshot. Over the bullpen and into the right field bleachers. Clobbered.

Seager drove in all three Mariners runs against Tanaka. The rest of their lineup had three singles and two walks against him in seven innings. One hit was an infield single and another was a ground ball back up the middle. Tanaka wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the second inning thanks to Mike Zunino, who has yet to see a pitch he won’t swing at. Seriously. Watching Zunino hit day after day after day would drive me nuts. At least you know Stephen Drew is a veteran guy who stinks. Zunino is young and has potential. That would be so frustrating.

Anyway, Tanaka struck out seven in his seven innings and got eight of his other 14 outs on the ground. He generated 13 swings and misses total — including five on seven swings against his slider, which is bonkers — so four of his five highest swing-and-miss totals this season have come in his last five starts. The Seager homers obviously count, but Tanaka was pretty good aside from that.

Love this guy. (Presswire)
Love this guy. (Presswire)

One Run At A Time
The Yankees scored one run in four separate innings. Certified lefty killer Chris Young hit a solo home run in the second, Chase Headley seeing-eye singled in Young in the fourth (Young smashed a double off the wall), Brian McCann singled in Alex Rodriguez in the fifth (A-Rod singled then moved up on Mark Teixeira‘s walk), then Alex hit a solo homer in the seventh. That’s the Cliff’s Notes version.

The longer version is that the Yankees did a little of everything offensively against Mike Montgomery. They worked three walks, hit one homer, one double, and five singles. Nine of 18 batters reached base against Montgomery at one point from the second through fifth inning. Headley hit into a killer inning-ending 6-4-3 double play with runners on the corners in the fifth, which let Montgomery off the hook when it looked like New York was ready to break it open. Headley has not had a good year at all and he’s been especially bad against lefties. Yuck.

Montgomery threw 104 pitches in six innings and, by my unofficial count, 53 of them were from the stretch. More than half (barely). It felt like much more. The Yankees had runners on base against the lefty in every inning but the sixth. Lefty reliever Joe Beimel served up the go-ahead solo homer to A-Rod in the seventh, an opposite field job into the bullpen. The best part? The paused bat drop (GIF via @MLB):

Alex Rodriguez bat drop

The man is a pioneer. Everyone is trying to come up with more elaborate bat flips, but Alex keeps it simple with a pause and a drop of the mic. That’s now three homers in the last four games for A-Rod. It was also his 19th of the season. He hasn’t hit that many since 2010. Rodriguez is up to .277/.381/.514 (147 wRC+) on the season. The Summer of Al, indeed.

Know who is happy this game is over? Jacoby Ellsbury. He had maybe his ugliest 0-for-4 as a Yankee. Yeah, he drew a walk, but also struck out three times and looked pretty feeble all each time. Not Ellsbury’s best night at the plate. It happens. Brett Gardner (single), A-Rod (single, homer), McCann (single), Young (double, homer), Headley (single), and Didi Gregorius (single) had the hits. Ellsbury, Gardner, Teixeira (two), and Headley drew the walks.

Jul 17, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Andrew Miller (48) reacts during the ninth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees defeated the Mariners 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

One-run lead after seven? That meant Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller time. Dellin struck out two in a perfect eighth and Miller struck out one in the ninth. He allowed a two-out single to Mark Trumbo that would have been a double if not for Gardner’s nice sliding stop to cut it off in left. Miller is 19-for-19 in save chances and isn’t even the best reliever in the bullpen. What a world.

Rob Refsnyder had an uneven day. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout at the plate, made one nice defensive play charging a chopper, and made a Hail Mary lob to second base on a slow grounder to get the force. The throw just barely beat the runner to the bag. It was … interesting. Garrett Jones pinch-hit for Refsnyder against a righty in the eighth. I thought it was the right move both offensively and defensively. (Drew took over at second.)

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. Here’s the win probability graph, which has apparently stopped updating:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Same two teams Saturday afternoon, in the second game of this three-game series. Michael Pineda and Hisashi Iwakuma will be the pitching matchup. Head over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch that game or any of the other four games remaining on the homestand live and in person.

DotF: Beltran draws a walk in third (final?) rehab game

Earlier today the Yankees officially announced they have signed 35 of their 41 draft picks. The signing deadline was 5pm ET this afternoon. There were no surprises among the 35 players, it’s everyone who has been trickling in over the last few weeks. All of New York’s draft picks are right here. The guys in bold are signed.

Update: C Gary Sanchez was promoted to Triple-A Scranton following tonight’s game, reports Jack Curry. That probably means C Austin Romine‘s thumb injury will keep him out a while.

Triple-A Scranton (4-1 win over Louisville)

  • SS Cole Figueroa: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B — has been playing a little more shortstop of late, makes me wonder if the Yankees are getting ready to cut ties with Brendan Ryan when Carlos Beltran returns
  • 2B Jose Pirela: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB — go-ahead single in the top of the ninth
  • LF Ramon Flores: 0-1, 1 K, 1 HBP — left the game after the hit-by-pitch
  • CF Aaron Judge: 2-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB — threw a runner out at second … the full Aaron Judge experience was on display
  • DH Greg Bird: 1-5, 1 K
  • C Austin Romine: 0-2, 1 K — Sweeny Murti says he left the game after aggravating a thumb injury he suffered before the All-Star break
  • RF Tyler Austin: 0-4, 1 K
  • RHP Esmil Rogers: 7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 Balk, 9/5 GB/FB — 59 of 96 pitches were strikes (72%) … ACEmil Rogers
  • LHP James Pazos: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 3/0 GB/FB — only nine of 19 pitches were strikes (47%)
  • RHP Chris Martin: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 14 of 23 pitches were strikes (61%)

[Read more…]

Game 89: Start of the Second Half

#TrueDetectiveSeason2 (Presswire)
#TrueDetectiveSeason2 (Presswire)

Baseball is back. The All-Star break is over and we’re heading into the dogs days of summer. The Yankees are the team to beat in the AL East right now. They have a nice little 3.5-game lead in the division and have the best combination of offense and pitching among the five clubs, though they’re certainly not without their flaws. The trade deadline is two weeks from today, by the way.

Robinson Cano and the Mariners are in the Bronx to start a three-game series this weekend. I don’t blame Robbie one bit for taking the extra $65M from the Mariners, I would have done the same thing, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t satisfying to see Seattle near the bottom of the standings while the Yankees are in first place. 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. RF Chris Young
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

The weather has been very nice in New York all day. Sunny, a few clouds, temperatures in the upper-70s without much humidity. Pretty great, actually. There is some rain in the forecast tonight but not until the wee hours of the morning. First pitch tonight is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and can be seen live on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Brendan Ryan (back) has been activated off the 15-day DL and Gregorio Petit was sent down to Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Carlos Beltran (oblique) is ready to be activated in a day or two.

Aaron Judge tops Baseball America’s midseason top ten Yankees prospects lists

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

So I guess we’re in midseason prospect list update season now. On Friday, Baseball America (subs. req’d) posted their updated midseason list of the top ten Yankees prospects. They posted an updated midseason top ten for every team over the last two weeks. Their updated midseason top 50 prospects list came out last week.

Here is New York’s updated top ten according to Baseball America:

  1. OF Aaron Judge (13th on the top 50)
  2. RHP Luis Severino (17th on the top 50)
  3. SS Jorge Mateo
  4. 1B Greg Bird
  5. C Gary Sanchez
  6. 3B Eric Jagielo
  7. 2B Rob Refsnyder
  8. LHP Jacob Lindgren
  9. RHP Domingo Acevedo
  10. RHP Rookie Davis

Not included in any of the top tens are 2015 draft picks. I’m certain RHP James Kaprielian would have slotted into the top ten somewhere had they been included. Otherwise the top eight spots are pretty self-explanatory. Quibble with the order if you want, but those eight names make sense there.

Acevedo and Davis are the big risers — I didn’t have either on my pre-draft top 30 list, though Davis was an oversight and I should have included him. Acevedo has “a fastball that has touched triple-digits” while Davis has “taken steps forward over the last two years, especially in terms of command,” according to the write-up. Unless LHP Ian Clarkin has some kind of a career-threatening injury, I’d still take him over Acevedo or Davis.

OF Dustin Fowler, RHP Brady Lail, and LHP Jordan Montgomery are all listed as prospects on the rise while RHP Jose Ramirez is tabbed as a player whose stock is on the way down. Clarkin (elbow), RHP Domingo German (Tommy John surgery), RHP Ty Hensley (Tommy John surgery), and C Luis Torrens (shoulder) are all out with season-ending injuries, which knocked them down prospect lists. Can’t win ’em all.

7/17 to 7/19 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners


The All-Star break is (finally) over and the Yankees return tonight with the first of three against the Mariners. That means Robinson Cano is back in New York for the third time as a Mariner — they played one series in the Bronx last season, but one game was rained out and had to be made up later in the summer. Also, Jesus Montero is back! He was called up from Triple-A not too long ago. The Yankees swept three games from the Mariners in Seattle last month.

What Have The Mariners Done Lately?

The Mariners split a four-game series with the Angels before the All-Star break and they’ve been alternating wins and losses for 12 games now. (They’re due for a win tonight if that pattern continues.) Seattle has been a huge disappointment this year, lots of people were expecting them to win the division, but they’re 41-48 with a -48 run differential. That’s the second worst record in the AL.

Offense & Defense

You’re not going to believe this, but the Mariners are one of the worst offensive teams in baseball this season. Crazy, I know. Never happens. They’re averaging 3.51 runs per game with a team 91 wRC+. Manager Lloyd McClendon’s offense is healthy too. No position players on the DL or even day-to-day.

Montero. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Montero. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Cano (85 wRC+) is in the middle of the worst season of his career, though I suspect you already knew that. He’s been much better over the last two weeks or so (133 wRC+). That’s still not the Robbie we remember, but it’s a lot better than what he was doing earlier this season. DH Nelson Cruz (158 wRC+) has 21 homers this season — he hit 18 homers in his first 46 games and has hit three homers in his last 41 games. Zoinks.

3B Kyle Seager (114 wRC+) has been solid and OF Seth Smith (130 wRC+) is killing the ball in a platoon role. SS Brad Miller (109 wRC+), OF Austin Jackson (84 wRC+), DH Mark Trumbo (94 wRC+), and 1B Logan Morrison (92 wRC+) all play everyday. Montero (59 wRC+ in extremely limited time) has seen time at first. C Mike Zunino (45 wRC+) is the regular catcher and OF Dustin Ackley (85 wRC+) and OF Franklin Gutierrez (108 wRC+ in limited time) are platooning in the outfield. Yes, Gutierrez is back in baseball. C Jesus Sucre (-93 wRC+) and IF Chris Taylor (24 wRC+) are on the bench.
The Mariners have a surprisingly weak team defense. Cano and Seager are both excellent and Zunino’s a stud behind the plate, plus Jackson can still go get it, but there’s not a whole lot to see besides that. Cruz has actually played more right field (49 games) than DH (38 games) and he’s abysmal in the field, same with Smith and Montero. Miller has a knack for hilarious errors. LoMo’s okay around the bag but won’t wow anyone. Cano, Seager, and Jackson … hit it to anyone but them.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. SEA) vs. LHP Mike Montgomery (vs. NYY)
Montgomery, 26, is a well-traveled former top prospect. He’s was part of the James Shields/Wil Myers swap a few years ago before going to Seattle for Erasmo Ramirez before the season. Montgomery has a 2.29 ERA (3.66 FIP) in eight starts and 55 innings this year with low strikeout (15.7%), walk (6.0%), and home run (0.65 HR/9) rates. His grounder rate (46.1%) is about average. He has a reverse split (.364 vs. .241 wOBA in favor of lefties) in his brief big league time. Montgomery’s fastball sits low-90s and his best pitch is a fading low-80s changeup. He’s settled on mid-70s curveball as his primary breaking ball and will mix in upper-80s cutters. Montgomery held the Yankees to one run in six innings in his MLB debut last month.

Saturday (1pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (vs. NYY)
A lat strain sent the 34-year-old Iwakuma to the DL for two and a half months earlier this year, and tomorrow will be his third start back. He has a 5.22 ERA (6.21 FIP) in five starts and 29.1 innings with few strikeouts (16.5%), few walks (4.1%), an average number of grounders (46.3%), and all the homers (2.76 HR/9). All the homers. Righties (.390 wOBA) have hit him harder than lefties (.356 wOBA) so far this year. Iwakuma lives in the upper-80s with his sinker and throws low-80s splitters and sliders as well as a low-70s curveball. The split-finger is his go-to out pitch, as it is for many Japanese hurlers. The Yankees didn’t see Iwakuma during the series in Seattle because he was still on the DL.

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
Felix. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

Sunday (1pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (vs. NYY)
Hope you weren’t expecting the Yankees to mix Felix this weekend. He has a 2.84 ERA (3.27 FIP) in 117.1 innings across 18 starts this year with very good to great everything: 24.1 K%, 7.5 BB%, 57.3 GB%, and 0.77 HR/9. Lefties (.292 wOBA) are having some more success against the 29-year-old than righties (.246 wOBA). These days Hernandez throws a fastball only 40% of the time or so — he favors his low-90s sinker over his low-90s four-seamer — and instead relies heavily on his upper-80s changeup. He throws that pitch more than one-third of the time, believe it or not. An upper-70s curveball is Felix’s preferred breaking ball, though he’ll also throw a bunch of mid-80s sliders per outing. The Yankees scored seven runs in 4.2 innings against Hernandez last month, but I wouldn’t bet on a repeat.

Bullpen Status
The Mariners only have a six-man bullpen right now, but they do have an open roster spot, so someone will get called up before tonight’s game. RHP Carson Smith (1.73 ERA/1.95 FIP) and RHP Fernando Rodney (5.50/5.27) have been sharing the closer’s job of late. Smith is the high-leverage guy — he comes in to get the big outs regardless of whether they’re in the eighth or ninth inning.

RHP Mark Lowe (0.64/1.61) is the Seattle’s only other righty reliever. LHP Joe Beimel (2.73/4.03) is the matchup lefty, former Yankees LHP Vidal Nuno (2.39/2.96) is the long reliever, and LHP David Rollins (12.46/4.92 in very limited time) was just called up not too long ago. Both bullpens are fresh thanks to the All-Star break, but check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of New York’s top relievers anyway. Then head over to Lookout Landing and USS Mariner for the latest on the Mariners.