Heyman: Yankees sign Chris Young to minor league deal

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have signed outfielder Chris Young to a minor league contract, reports Jon Heyman. I assume he’ll head to Triple-A Scranton for a few days and be called up when rosters expand on Monday. The Yankees will need to make room on the 40-man roster to accommodate him when the time comes, but that won’t be much of a problem.

Young, 30, hit .205/.283/.346 (80 wRC+) with eight homers and seven steals in 287 plate appearances for the Mets this year before being released earlier this month. That includes a weak .136/.277/.227 (50 wRC+) line in 83 plate appearances against lefties. Young hit .200/.280/.379 (82 wRC+) overall and .209/.320/.392 (99 wRC) against southpaws while with the Athletics last year. He has consistently graded out as a strong outfield defender in his career.

At his best, Young hit .243/.331/.436 (104 wRC+) overall and .272/.377/.482 (131 wRC+) against lefties while with the Diamondbacks from 2010-12. His best year came in 2010, when he put up a .257/.341/.452 (109 wRC+) line with 27 homers and 28 stolen bases. Obviously that was a long time ago and he’s not the same player now. Vernon Wells managed to be the best hitter in the AL for a few weeks last year, maybe Young can do the same. Baseball is weird sometimes.

The Yankees clearly need another right-handed bat — Zelous Wheeler has started four of the last six games — and Young might be able to fill that role for a few weeks. They only have to pay him the pro-rated portion of the league minimum — the Mets are on the hook for his $7.2M salary — and if he stinks, they can keep him glued to the bench. There’s no such thing as wasting a roster spot in September. Minor move. Maybe he’ll hit a random big homer or something.

Lack of walks contributing to Yankees’ mediocre offense

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello was pretty sharp Tuesday night, and as a result the Yankees failed to draw a walk for the tenth time this season. That is still well short of last year’s 17 walk-less games, but it matches 2012’s total and is way more than they had in any year from 2002-11 — they averaged 4.6 walk-less games per year during that stretch and never had more than seven. Last night was their fourth walk-less game in August alone.

Before the season, I expected the offense to improve on last season’s subpar walk rate because of their offseason additions. Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann in particular came into the season with strong career walk rates. Instead, the Yankees have essentially the same walk rate this year (7.6%) as last year (7.7%). Their unintentional walk rate (7.3%) is more or less the same as well (7.2%). The AL average this year is a 7.8% walk rate.

The Yankees as a team have their lowest walk rate since the dismal 1990 club that lost 95 games, averaged 3.72 runs per game, and walked in only 7.1% of their plate appearances. Offensive levels have changed over the years though, so a 7.6% walk rate in 2014 is not the same thing as a 7.6% walk rate in 2000 or 1990. Here’s how the Yankees’ walk rate has compared to the AL average since that 1990 season. This works the same way as ERA+ — a 100 BB+ is average and the bigger the number, the better.

1990-2014 NYY BB+

The Yankees have essentially the same walk rate as last year but they’re slightly better relative to the league average. They’re still below average overall though. It’s hard not to notice the club missed the postseason the last two times they posted a below league average walk rate and are on pace to do the same this year, but this is one of those “correlation does not equal causation” situations. A below average walk rate doesn’t automatically equal no postseason for this or any team.

Fewer walks does mean fewer runs though. That is obvious and an indisputable fact. It is harder to get a base hit right now than at any point in the last 42 years — the AL is hitting .254 overall this year, the lowest league batting average since 1972 (.239!), the year before the DH was implemented — because of things like infield shifts, specialized relievers, more hard-throwers, in-depth scouting reports, and an acceptance of strikeouts as a trade off for power. All of that and more makes picking up a base hit difficult in this age.

Walks are another way to create offense — a walk is almost never as a good as a hit and no hitter goes to the plate looking for a walk, they just take them when they come — and the Yankees excelled at drawing them for the better part of the last two decades. These last two years have been much different, though at least last season we could fall back on the injury excuse. Missing Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson for a chunk of the 2013 season in particular took a big bite out of the team’s walk total. This year? No such excuse.

Both Beltran (7.7%) and McCann (6.3%) are walking at a rate far below their career averages (10.3% and 9.2%, respectively), so they’re part of the problem. Neither guy as done much damage when swinging the bat in general and they’ve compounded the problem by drawing fewer walks as well. In fact, let’s take a quick look at the career and 2014 walk rates of the lineup regulars (the trade deadline guys just got here):

2014 BB% Career BB% Diff.
Carlos Beltran 7.7% 10.3% -2.6%
Jacoby Ellsbury 8.6% 7.1% +1.5%
Brett Gardner 9.5% 10.2% -0.7%
Derek Jeter 5.8% 8.6% -2.8%
Brian McCann 6.3% 9.2% -2.9%
Ichiro Suzuki 6.0% 5.9% +0.1%
Mark Teixeira 11.9% 11.4% +0.5%

Beltran, Jeter, and McCann have all seen their walk rates take a big tumble this year, compared to their career averages. Only Ellsbury has seen a substantial improvement. Gardner’s drop in walk rate is at least offset by his selectively aggressive approach and newfound power skills. The team is drawing fewer weeks this year and it’s easy see where the drop is coming from.

The Yankees are struggling to score runs for a lot of reasons this year, particularly because of the disappointing Beltran and McCann. Ellsbury’s been very good but he isn’t an impact hitter, last night’s two homers notwithstanding. His value comes from his all-around game, not offensive dominance. Teixeira’s doing exactly what he’s done the last few years, Jeter and Ichiro are on the wrong side of 40, and Gardner has been the lone offensive surprise. The Yankees have lost the two things that make them the Yankees, that trademark power and patience.

MLBTR: Yankees scouted Cuban lefty Misael Siverio

Via MLBTR: The Yankees were among the teams to scout Cuban left-hander Misael Siverio during a showcase event back in June. He is scheduled to throw for teams again on Friday, according to Jon Heyman. Siverio has already been declared a free agent by MLB and cleared by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, so he is free to sign at any time.

Siverio, 25, is a small guy listed at 5-foot-9. Heyman says he has a low-90s fastball with a “tight offspeed variation” that includes a curveball, a changeup, and a splitter. The recent history of Cuban defectors heavily favors position players, but both Orlando Hernandez and Jose Contreras (after he left the Yankees) had success in the big leagues not too long ago. The Yankees signed Cuban lefty Omar Luis to a $2.5M deal a few years ago and there’s no word on what kind of bonus Siverio is expected to command.

Yankees at their best when Jeter is the DH

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

For the fourth time in the last nine games, Derek Jeter started at DH last night. That comes after he started only four of the team’s first 121 games at DH. Carlos Beltran‘s elbow injury relegated him to full-time DH duty for a few weeks, but even when Beltran was on the disabled list, Jeter was still playing shortstop every day while guys like Alfonso Soriano and Brian McCann got regular turns at DH. All these recent starts at DH are a change of pace for the Cap’n.

Joe Girardi, naturally, isn’t making too much of it. He simply chalked it up to giving a veteran player some extra rest late in the season when the opportunity presents itself. Here’s what he told Chad Jennings prior to last night’s game:

“I’m in the mode that I’m just taking it day by day,” Girardi said. “But with Carlos being able to go into the outfield once in a while, it gives me more flexibility to do this. … We’ve had some long stretches. We have a lot of lefties coming up the next five days after today where he’s going to play (probably at shortstop), so try to give him a little blow when I can. And I thought today was probably a good day. Two plane flights in two days, and as I said, we have day games after night games, so we’re going to need him in there a lot.”

“I don’t think I can play him much more than I’ve played him,” Girardi said. “He’s played in all but about 10 games maybe, maybe a few more than that, but there was a time when he missed three because his leg was bothering him. But when you get in these long stretches, these 13-game stretches, I’ve usually given him on day off. And that might be all he gets in this.”

Jeter is completely unfazed by the starts at DH — “I don’t know how many times I’ve done it … My job is to come here, and when I’m in the lineup, play,” he told Jennings — and that isn’t surprising at all. The Yankees have used that DH spot as something of a revolving door to rest their older players over the years, a practice that has caught on around the league. The full-time DH like David Ortiz is a dying breed. Jeter, McCann, Beltran, and Zelous Wheeler (!) have all started a game at DH at some point in the last week, so the revolving door is in full effect.

At this point though, the best Yankees team doesn’t have a revolving door at DH. The best Yankees team right now, in late-August and September of 2014, has Jeter at DH full-time. He hasn’t hit at all this month — .222/.237/.278 in August even after last night’s 2-for-4 — but you and I both know the Yankees aren’t going to drop him in the lineup, let alone take him out of the lineup entirely. Not with only a month of regular season baseball left in his career.

The best thing the Yankees can do at this point is take Jeter out of the field and play Stephen Drew, the far superior defender, at shortstop. The trade-off for the improved infield defense is Drew’s weak bat — he’s over 200 plate appearances now, so “he didn’t have a proper Spring Training” is no longer a valid excuse for his lack of production — as well as Beltran’s awful right field defense, though the latter is a small issue thanks to the ground ball heavy pitching staff. Well, everyone in the rotation except Michael Pineda is a ground baller. Prioritizing outfield defense makes sense when he’s on the mound.

We all know turning Jeter into a full-time DH just isn’t going to happen. He’ll still see his fair share of time in the field, but he started four of the last nine games at DH and that seems like a decent framework going forward, no? I mean, there are only 32 games left in the season. Four out of nine works out to 14 games at DH and 18 at short the rest of the way. The Yankees are still in the race for the second wildcard spot (despite their best efforts in the summer months) and improving the defense by giving Jeter more time at DH the last 32 games makes sense.

All of this is contingent on Beltran’s elbow, obviously. If he can’t play right field, he’ll play DH regularly and Jeter will play shortstop, end of story. If that is not the case though, if that third cortisone shot makes Beltran’s elbow a non-issue these next four and a half weeks, the Yankees could have him and Jeter essentially split their time between DH and the field. Work it around Pineda’s pitching schedule, off-days, the opposing starter (no Drew against lefties, etc.), whatever. The best Yankees team right now has less Jeter in the field and it seems like they’ve acknowledged that these last nine games. Now they just have to continue doing it.

Tigers rough up McCarthy, winning streak ends at five with 5-2 loss

I guess the Yankees just don’t like being eight games over .500, huh? The team’s latest attempt to reach that point fell short on Tuesday night. They lost 5-2 to the Tigers after a one hour and eight minute rain delay.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Bad Brandon
For the first time as a Yankee, Brandon McCarthy got hit pretty hard on Tuesday night. He was in trouble all night, allowing five runs and 13 base-runners in 6.1 innings. I’m not quite sure why he was sent back out to start the seventh — McCarthy surrendered the fifth run that inning — but it really didn’t matter in the end. It saved the bullpen an out, I guess. McCarthy threw 85 pitches and, by my unofficial count, 44 were from the stretch. So yeah, he was in trouble all night.

The Tigers scored their first run on a bases loaded walk of all things. McCarthy had walked two batters in only two of his first eight starts with New York, but he walked two and hit a batter in the second inning of this game. It was obvious he was off from the get-go. Just one of those nights, I guess. Detroit scored another run on a Miguel Cabrera double and a J.D. Martinez single in the third, then they did some real damage in the sixth with a single (Victor Martinez), a double (J.D. Martinez), a run-scoring single (Nick Castellanos), and a run-scoring double play (Alex Avila). A double (Rajai Davis) and a single (Torii Hunter) created the fifth run in the seventh. Ugly outing. What can you do.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

All Ellsbury
Rick Porcello was really sharp just about all night. The Yankees scored their two runs on Jacoby Ellsbury solo homers, believe it or not. Otherwise the team only had one other base-runner make it as far as third base, and that was when they had runners on the corners with two outs in the fourth. Stephen Drew popped out to end the threat. Porcello faced 31 batters, threw 18 first pitch strikes, and allowed ten balls to be hit out of the infield.

Joe Nathan retired the side in order in the ninth, so 15 of the final 19 batters the Yankees sent to the plate made outs. The four exceptions were Ellsbury’s two homers, Derek Jeter‘s infield single, and Carlos Beltran‘s traditional single to center. The bottom four hitters in the order went 1-for-14 with an infield single (Ichiro Suzuki) and overall the Yankees went hitless in all of three at-bats with runners in scoring position. They saw nine total pitches in those at-bats. Just a blah night for the offense. Porcello was good and they couldn’t put anything together. Baseball.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Esmil Rogers retired five of six men he faced with three strikeouts and a hit batsman. He was the only reliever used. The Yankees have been able to get their key late-inning relievers some nice rest these last two or three days. Those guys have been worked really hard these last few weeks.

The Yankees actually had nine hits on the night, including three by Ellsbury and two each by Jeter and Beltran. They didn’t draw any walks because the Yankees don’t do that anymore. This was the offense’s tenth walk-less game of the year. They had 13 total from 2009-11. I miss offense.

Mark Teixeira saved Chase Headley two errors in the first two innings with scoops at first base. The second one saved some runs, which really wouldn’t have mattered in the end, but Tex flashed some leather in this game and that’s cool.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com is the place to go for the box score and video highlights. FanGraphs has some other stats and ESPN has to updated standings. The Orioles beat the Rays, so the Yankees are seven back in the AL East. Depending on the outcome of the late game, the Yankees will be either three (Mariners lose, Tigers take over second wildcard spot) or 3.5 (Mariners win) games back of the second wildcard spot. FanGraphs has their postseason odds at a robust 14.8%. I have absolutely no idea how they picked up 2.0% since last night despite losing. Weird.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Same two teams on Wednesday night, in the middle game of this three-game series. Shane Greene and David Price will be the pitching matchup. Pretty sick of seeing Price at this point. This will be their fifth meeting of the year even though the guy got traded out of the division at the deadline.

DotF: Jagielo breaks out of slump in Tampa’s win

The notes:

Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off-day.

Double-A Trenton (5-0 win over Akron)

  • CF Jake Cave: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI — 9-for-18 in his last four games
  • LF Ben Gamel: 0-4
  • C Gary Sanchez: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K — picked a runner off second with a snap throw
  • DH Dante Bichette Jr.: 0-4, 2 K — Double-A has not been too kind to him
  • RF Mason Williams: 2-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 K
  • RHP Jaron Long: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 9/0 GB/FB – 116/22 K/BB in 132 innings for the hitting coach’s kid
  • LHP Jacob Lindgren: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1/0 GB/FB — up to 48 strikeouts (and ten walks) in 24.2 pro innings
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K

[Read more…]

Game 130: New Heights

(AP)
(AP)

The Yankees have won five straight games and are seven games over .500. Those both tie their high-water marks of the season. Tonight the Yankees will look to set new season highs by stretching their winning streak to six games and moving to eight games over .500. They’ve been stymied a few times before.

More importantly, the Yankees are chasing the Tigers in the second wildcard race. They’re two games back of Detroit and cutting that deficit in half this week is the bare minimum, in my opinion. There aren’t many games left, so these head-to-head meetings are incredibly important. The Yankees won’t get a chance to control what they and their second wildcard competitors do on a given night for the rest of the year after this series. Here is the Tigers lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. DH Derek Jeter
  3. C Brian McCann
  4. 3B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Carlos Beltranback in the field just a few days after receiving a third cortisone shot in his elbow
  6. 2B Martin Prado
  7. SS Stephen Drew
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. LF Ichiro Suzuki
    RHP Brandon McCarthy

Bad news: there is rain in the forecast tonight. Not all night, but three or four hours worth, supposedly starting right around 7pm ET. Hopefully they rain isn’t as bad as it is supposed to be, otherwise they’ll be waiting all night to play this game. First pitch is scheduled for just after 7pm ET and you can watch on My9. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Brett Gardner (ankle) will try to run on the field before the game. If that goes well, he’ll be available off the bench.

Update (6:38pm): The game is already in the delay, it has been announced. No word on a start time just yet, but it might be a while given the forecast.

Update (7:30pm): The game is tentatively scheduled to begin at 8:15pm ET.