5/11 to 5/14 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

Kevin Cash was not happy with the umps this weekend. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Kevin Cash was not happy with the umps this weekend. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Again with the Rays. Again. The Yankees and Rays have already played two series on the young season, with New York winning both of them. They swept three games at Tropicana Field in the middle of April and then won two of three in the Bronx at the end of April. These two clubs will play another four games in the Trop this week.

What Have The Rays Done Lately?

The Rays split four games with the lowly Rangers at home this weekend. They won two of three at Fenway Park before that and lost two of three at Camden Yards before that. Tampa Bay is 17-15 with a +10 run differential this year. They’re in second place in the AL East and three games back of the Yankees, so I guess first place is on the line.

Offense & Defense

In the first year post-Joe Maddon, the Rays are averaging just 3.78 runs per game with a team 100 wRC+, so while they’ve been league average on a rate basis, their run output is below the 4.24 runs per game league average. Timing is important! New skipper Kevin Cash is without 2B Ryan Brett (shoulder), OF Desmond Jennings (knee), DH John Jaso (wrist), and IF Nick Franklin (oblique), all of whom are on the DL and won’t return this series.

Souza and Guyer. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Souza and Guyer. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

As usual, the Rays are led offensively by 3B Evan Longoria (155 wRC+), who is drawing more walks than ever (15.0%) because teams are pitching around him. Just 46.6% of the pitches thrown to him this season have been in the zone, the lowest rate of his career and below the 48.2% league average. UTIL Logan Forsythe (131 wRC+) and OF Kevin Kiermaier (117 wRC+) are off to nice starts and OF Steven Souza Jr. (114 wRC+) is a three true outcomes machine — 54.8% of his plate appearances have ended with a walk, a strikeout, or a homer.

1B James Loney (90 wRC+), a certified Yankee killer, is off to a slow start after missing time with an oblique problem, and SS Asdrubal Cabrera (62 wRC+) has been awful all year. OF Brandon Guyer (149 wRC+) and OF David DeJesus (128 wRC+) are doing fine work in platoon roles while IF Tim Beckham (80 wRC+) isn’t. OF Joey Butler (86 wRC+ in very limited time) was just called up to replace Jennings and the catching tandem of C Rene Rivera (17 wRC+) and C Bobby Wilson (25 wRC+) has been dreadful.

Defensively, the Rays are strongest in the outfield thanks mostly to Kiermaier. Souza is a quality defender as well and the Guyer/DeJesus/Butler trio is alright overall. Longoria and Loney are excellent on the infield corners but Asdrubal and the Forsythe/Beckham tandem on the middle infield is really shaky. Rivera is a top of the line pitch-framer and about average at everything else behind the dish. Tampa’s defense took a hit with Jennings’ injury but it’s still solid everywhere aside from the middle infield.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: LHP CC Sabathia (Career vs. TB) vs. RHP Alex Colome (Career vs. NYY)
Colome, 26, was supposed to be part of the fifth starter’s competition in camp, but his arrival was delayed by visa issues, then he came down with pneumonia once he got to Florida. He opened the season on the DL and has made two starts since being activated, allowing two runs in ten innings. Colome has struck out ten and walked zero so far. The rookie righty has thrown 49.2 career innings in MLB and doesn’t have a significant platoon split (.277 vs .269 wOBA in favor of righties). Colome is a mid-90s four-seam fastball guy with a mid-80s cutter/slider thing — he can vary the break on it, so it can be short like a cutter or sweepy like a slider — and a low-80s changeup. He’ll also flip a few upper-70s curveballs per start as well.

Tuesday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. TB) vs. RHP Chris Archer (Career vs. NYY)
The Yankees lucked out and did not face the 26-year-old Archer in their first two series with the Rays this year. Archer’s been outstanding, with a 2.59 ERA (2.84 FIP) and excellent peripherals (29.9 K%, 8.4 BB%, 54.5 GB%, 0.65 HR/9) in seven starts and 41.2 innings. His last two starts have been his worst of the season though — nine of the 14 runs he’s allowed in 2015 have come in those two outings. Archer has been better against lefties (.227 wOBA) than righties (.265 wOBA) this season, which is out of line with the rest of his career. He’s basically a two-pitch pitcher, using mid-90s fastballs and upper-80s sliders to dominate. Archer rarely throws a changeup and his fastball/slider combo is so good he really doesn’t need it. He’s easily the best non-Michael Pineda starter in the AL East at this very moment.

Karns. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Karns. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Adam Warren (Career vs. TB) vs. RHP Nathan Karns (Career vs. NYY)
Karns, 27, will be the first pitcher the Yankees face for a third time this year. The Yankees scored two runs in five innings against him in the middle of April, then one run in 4.1 innings in late-April, running up his pitch count both times. Karns has a 3.79 ERA (4.77 FIP) in seven starts in 40.1 innings this season, with good strikeout (23.0%) and ground ball (49.5%) rates but not so good walk (11.5%) and homer (1.34 HR/9) numbers. Righties (.295 wOBA) have had more success against him than lefties (.265 wOBA) this year in his limited sample of work. Karns uses low-to-mid-90s four-seamers to set up his big breaking low-80s curveball, the pitch that is the reason he is in the big leagues. He also throws a mid-80s changeup.

Thursday: RHP Chase Whitley (Career vs. TB) vs. TBA
Two weeks ago southpaw Drew Smyly dominated the Yankees, striking out ten in six innings. He made one more start after that, then landed on the DL with a tear in his labrum that will likely require season-ending surgery. Rough. It’s unclear who will take his spot in the rotation. The two main candidates are righties Matt Andriese (5.40 ERA and 4.72 FIP) and Erasmo Ramirez (8.31 ERA and 3.67 FIP), though I suppose a call-up is always possible too. Ramirez has more experience as a big league starter but Andriese has made more starts this season (three to two), including one this past weekend. I guess Thursday’s starter will depend on whether either of these guys is needed in long relief this week. We’ll find out soon enough.

Bullpen Status
The Rays currently have an eight-man bullpen and they really need it. Their rotation is really shaky aside from Archer and RHP Jake Odorizzi at the moment. Andriese and Erasmo are candidates to start Thursday, and whoever doesn’t start will serve as a long man with RHP Andrew Bellatti (3.76 FIP), who was just called up to make his MLB debut over the weekend.

Cash’s late-inning duo is RHP Brad Boxberger (1.66 FIP) and RHP Kevin Jepsen (4.26 FIP), though RHP Steve Geltz (2.86 FIP) will also see some high-leverage work from time to time. LHP Xavier Cedeno (4.87 FIP) is Tampa’s only lefty reliever. RHP Ernesto Frieri (6.69 FIP) and RHP Brandon Gomes (3.57 FIP) are the other two relievers. Cedeno, Frieri, and Jepsen all pitched yesterday. Check out the status of the Yankees’ bullpen without Bullpen Workload page. Then check out DRays Bay and The Process Report for the latest on the Rays.

Yankeemetrics: May 7-10 (Orioles)

Can we just give him the Cy Young today? (AP Photo)
Can we just give him the Cy Young today? (AP Photo)

We’re going to kick things off with Pineda’s spectacular outing on Mother’s Day… because, well, do we really need a reason?!

The Yankees won their 20th game of the season on Sunday afternoon but the story of the game was the incredible performance by Michael Pineda, who struck out 16 batters without allowing a walk in seven innings. It was a historic day for the 26-year-old right-hander at Yankee Stadium:

• He is the first Yankee with at least 16 strikeouts and no walks in a game. The last major-league pitcher to do it was Johan Santana on Aug. 19, 2007.
• At 26 years old, Pineda is the youngest pitcher with a 16-strikeout, no-walk game since a 22-year-old Mark Prior on June 26, 2003.
• He is the only MLB pitcher in at least the last 100 years (and probably ever) to have 16-or-more strikeouts and zero walks in a game when pitching fewer than eight innings.
• Pineda is the second Yankee right-hander to strike out 16 batters in a game, joining David Cone on June 23, 1997 vs. the Tigers.

And just for fun: He struck out 16 in seven innings, the equivalent of 20.6 strikeouts in nine innings. The major-league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game is 20. If only Pineda had a rubber arm and there were no pitch counts…

He featured a nasty slider all afternoon, which netted him 12 swings-and-misses and eight strikeouts by Orioles batters. Pineda now has 30 strikeouts via his slider this season, the most among all pitchers in the majors.

Pineda is 7-0 in his last nine starts dating back to last September, with at least five strikeouts and no more than one walk in each of those games. Only two other pitchers have put together a streak like that – no losses, five-or-more strikeouts and no walks in a nine-start span – in the last 100 years: Bret Saberhagen in 1994 and Curt Schilling in 2002.

Pineda has three games this season with no walks, at least seven strikeouts and a win. Here’s the list of pitchers to do that within the team’s first 32 games during the last 100 years: Walter Johnson (1916), Greg Maddux (1994) and Fergie Jenkins (1971). Oh, just a few Hall of Famers, and Pineda.

A-Rod ‘says goodbye’ to Willie
With one swing of the bat, Alex Rodriguez once again etched his name in the record books – passing Willie Mays to move into sole possession of fourth place on the all-time home run list – and helped the Yankees to another key win over a division rival. Check out the similarities between career homers No. 660 and 661:

Last week it was a pinch-hit solo homer that broke a 2-2 tie to help the Yankees beat the Red Sox; on Thursday night it was another tie-breaking solo shot to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead against the Orioles, in a game they would eventually win, 4-3.

The (not) milestone home run No. 661 came off Chris Tillman, a pitcher that A-Rod has absolutely owned in his career. He’s now 6-for-12 with four homers vs. Tillman, good for a nice round slugging percentage of 1.500 – his highest against any of the 315 pitchers he has at least 10 at-bats against in his career.

Nate Eovaldi gutted through 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits for the win. He did match a season-high with 14 swinging strikes, six of which came via his curveball – a career-best whiff total for that pitch.

And your official 2015 Yankees closer is …
The Yankees followed a familiar script in beating the Orioles 5-4 on Friday night: a big blast to give the team an early lead, followed by a near-flawless performance from the back end of the bullpen to secure the win.

Brian McCann provided the power, sending a 3-0 pitch from Miguel Gonzalez over the fence that put the Yankees up 3-0 in the first inning. After Friday’s game, the Yankees had swung at four 3-0 pitches this season – and two of them turned into home runs (also A-Rod’s 660th last week). They are the only team this season to hit two homers on 3-0 pitches.

Trying to protect a one-run lead, Andrew Miller came on in the ninth inning to finish off the game and did Andrew Miller things. He pitched a perfect inning for his 13th save of the season, of course. And for the 15th time in 15 games, he didn’t allow any runs or more than one hit. Guess how many Yankee pitchers have ever started a season with a streak like that? Keep guessing…. Yup, none.

The Chase is over
Chase Whitley came crashing back down to Earth in Saturday’s loss to the Orioles, allowing five runs in 5 2/3 innings after he entered the game with a shiny 0.75 ERA in his first two starts this season.

It was hardly surprising that he ran into trouble against the O’s. He’s now pitched 11 1/3 innings vs. Baltimore and allowed 14 earned runs, good for a 11.12 ERA that ranks as the second-highest against the Orioles by any active pitcher (min. 10 IP). Only the Padres’ Tyson Ross (17.10) has a worse mark than Whitley.

Jose Pirela was the only Yankee with more than one hit in the game, going 2-for-4 and notching the fifth multi-hit game of his career. He is just the seventh Yankee to debut in the last 100 years and have at least five multi-hit games within his first 10 career major-league appearances. He’s in some pretty good company here: Jerry Coleman (1949), Snuffy Stirnweiss (1943), Phil Rizzuto (1941), Joe DiMaggio (1936), Leo Durocher (1928), Norm McMillan (1922).

Fan Confidence Poll: May 11th, 2015

Record Last Week: 4-3 (25 RS, 26 RA)
Season Record: 20-12 (149 RS, 119 RA, 20-12 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: @ Rays (four games, Mon. to Thurs.), @ Royals (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features menu in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Big Mike fans 16, Yankees take series finale from O’s 6-2

Source: FanGraphs

Gosh, what a game. And of course I missed it. Well, missed most of it. I was around for the first inning, inning and a half before I had to head out for some family time on Mother’s Day. Just my luck, right? The Yankees won for the 17th time in their last 23 games on Sunday, beating the Orioles 6-2 in the series finale. Let’s recap this one with an annotated box score.

Yankees Orioles annotated box scoe

(1) Sixteen strikeouts! I don’t want to spoil too much of tomorrow’s Yankeemetrics post, but Michael Pineda tied David Cone for the most strikeouts by a right-handed pitcher in a single game in franchise history. (Cone struck out 16 in June 1997.) Ron Guidry of course holds the franchise record with 18 strikeouts. Here is Big Mike‘s 16th strikeout:

I can’t remember the last time there was that much energy in Yankee Stadium for a non-legacy player farewell game. Pineda has kinda sorta been the staff ace since Masahiro Tanaka got hurt last year, but he confirmed it with authority on Sunday. He’s the ace. Sixteen strikeouts, no walks, one run in seven innings on a solo homer. Total domination. Pineda has 54 strikeouts and three walks in 46.1 innings this year. That’s a 29.5 K% and a 1.6 BB%, with a 53.2% ground ball rate to boot. Have mercy, Big Mike.

(Aside: Dan Barbarisi says Pineda calls strikeouts “strike ’em outs,” and I think we should all call them that from now on.)

(2) Carlos Beltran hit a home run! It’s his first dinger in 176 plate appearances, dating back to August 23rd of last season. It was a bit of a meatball, a hanging 85 mph slider, but that’s fine. It’s a pitch the hitter is supposed to crush and earlier this year Beltran wasn’t doing much with pitches like that. Carlos is 10-for-32 (.313) with four doubles, the homer, two walks, and two strike ’em outs in May. It’s no secret the Yankees rely heavily on the top of the order for offense. If they can start getting some production from Beltran in the sixth spot, man that would be a big help.

(3) I watched the video of Didi Gregorius‘ seventh inning double and I like the aggressiveness there. It took a perfect set of relay throws to get him at third base. That said, the run is the priority there. Stephen Drew broke it down too soon, and once the throw gets to the infield and it’s clear he’s not going to make it to third, Didi has to stop and get in a rundown so Drew could score. I don’t mind going for the triple there — that ball could have taken any sort of weird bounce off the wall, it just happened to bounce right to the cannon-armed Adam Jones — but the run has to score. Priority number one. Thankfully it didn’t come back to bite them.

(4) That was an incredibly dumb attempted steal of third base by Brett Gardner in the first inning. We went through this exact same situation with Gregorius in the first series of the year. Two outs, runners on base, power hitter at the plate … what’s the point of going there? Just let the hitter hit. Bud Norris has been pretty crappy this year and Brian McCann had a 2-0 count. A 2-0 count! Geez, Brett. Just let the man hit next time. Norris seemed very willing to work himself into trouble there and Gardner let him off the hook.

(5) The Yankees went 3-for-8 (.375) with three doubles and two walks (.500 OBP) with runners in scoring position on the afternoon. That’s really good. During this stellar 17-6 stretch, New York is hitting .243/.348/.439 with runners in scoring position. The AL average is .261/.345/.414 this year and the Yankees hit .254/.331/.372 in those spots from 2013-14. The batting average is a little low, but the on-base and slugging numbers are way, way better the last two seasons. Big time improvement from the Yankees in this area, hence the increase in scoring.

(6) At some point a number three reliever behind Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller is going to have to emerge. For a while it was Chris Martin, and lately it’s been Justin Wilson, but that spot is still undecided. That’s the role Adam Warren filled behind Betances and David Robertson last year. A five-run lead with six outs to go is a spot where Betances shouldn’t be needed for five outs, even if he threw only 23 pitches. Maybe Wilson can take that role and run with it these next few days. Maybe Jacob Lindgren can assume that role later in the year. For now, the Yankees don’t have that obvious number three option behind Dellin and Miller. Those two need to be able to sit games like this one out.

* * *

Here are the box score, the video highlights, and the updated standings. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees are now off to start a nine-game, eleven-day road trip. CC Sabathia will open a four-game series in Tampa on Monday night. Righty Alex Colome will be on the bump for the Rays.

DotF: Judge and Sanchez go deep in Trenton’s blowout win

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 loss to Indianapolis)

  • CF Slade Heathcott: 1-4, 1 K
  • LF Ramon Flores: 1-2, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 1 2B — 18-for-48 (.375) in his last 12 games … for the second straight year, he’s gotten hot after a slow two or three weeks to start the season
  • RF Tyler Austin: 0-3, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • RHP Kyle Davies: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 8/5 GB/FB — 59 of 92 pitches were strikes (64%)
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 2 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 18 of 24 pitches were strikes (75%)
  • RHP Jared Burton: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — nine of 15 pitches were strikes (60%)

[Read more…]

Mother’s Day Open Thread

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there. You make the world go round. I was hoping to embed a video with Michael Pineda‘s 16 strikeouts tonight, but apparently no such video exists yet. For shame. We’ll have to settle for a strikeout compilation from last season instead.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Tigers and Royals are the ESPN Sunday Night Game (Shane Greene vs. Chris Young) and the (hockey) Rangers are looking to keep their season alive with Game Six of their second round matchup with the Capitals. There’s also some NBA postseason action on as well. Talk about those games, Big Mike‘s day, or anything else right here.

Late Update: MLB.com finally put together the compilation video of Pineda’s 16 strikeouts. Enjoy:

Game 32: Big Mike on Mother’s Day


This afternoon will be the Yankees’ last home game for 12 days. They just wrapped up a six-game road trip, came home for this four-game series against the Orioles, and will now head back out on the road for nine more days. Fifteen of 19 games on the road is what this stretch is. Long time to be away from the Bronx.

Anyway, the Yankees have already clinched at least a tie of this series with the O’s, and that’s nice, but dammit I want the series win. The Yankees are playing very well, as well as they have at any point in the last three years, and they just had a stretch of five straight series wins snapped. I want them to get back up on that horse and win this series, especially since their ace is on the mound against a division rival. Here is Baltimore’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 Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Michael Pineda

The weather today is the same as yesterday. Overcast and on the cool side, but there’s no rain in the forecast. This afternoon’s game is set to begin at 1:05pm ET, and you can watch live on YES locally and MLB Network nationally, depending on where you live. Enjoy the game. And happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there.

Injury Update: Masahiro Tanaka (wrist, forearm) played catch again today, this time from 90 and 120 feet. Everything is going well and he is reporting no issues.