Offense no-shows as Yankees fall 4-0 to Tigers

On the bright side, Friday afternoon’s 4-0 loss to the Tigers was fairly quick. The game took only two hours and 44 minutes. The Yankees did their part to improve the pace by never once threatening offensively. There was nothing close to a rally.

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

Rested For Saturday
The Yankees and Joe Girardi have been saying they plan to rest their regulars more often this season since the end of last year. I just didn’t think they would rest them all in the same game. Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran were all on the bench Friday afternoon, and Girardi cited the afternoon game following the late flight into Detroit as the reason. That makes sense, I guess.

Not surprisingly, the Yankees didn’t muster much against Jordan Zimmermann, who looked razor sharp in his first start with the Tigers. They had two hits and three walks in seven innings against Zimmermann — he walked three or more batters only four times in 33 starts last year — and they didn’t have a runner make it to second base until there were two outs in the seventh. At one point Zimmermann retired eight straight and eleven of 12 batters faced.

The Yankees did a little better against the bullpen — Austin Romine drew a walk against ex-Yankee Justin Wilson in the eighth and Brett Gardner led off the ninth with a single against Kyle Ryan — but not much came of it. It was a little late by then. Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Mark Teixeira had the team’s three base hits. They were all singles. Teixeira advanced to second on a wild pitch and was the team’s only base-runner in scoring position.

I understand the importance of resting the veteran players, I do, and I’m all for it, but maybe stagger the rest going forward? That lineup didn’t stand much of a chance Friday afternoon. The pitching staff is not good enough to put a game in their hands like that.

Death By Soft Contact
In the fourth inning, the Tigers put together one of those annoying rallies in which Luis Severino‘s biggest mistake was allowing too much soft contact. I hate those. It’ll go into the records books as two hits on four singles and a fielder’s choice, but there was one hard-hit ball, and it should have been an out. J.D. Martinez lifted a high fly ball to center field that Ellsbury misread and turned into a base hit.

It’s kinda silly that plays like do not get ruled an error. It was a very catchable fly ball the outfielder misread, yet it counts against the pitcher. So silly. Anyway, regardless of the scoring, the ball fell in and the Tigers had a runner on first with one out instead of the bases empty with two outs. Nick Castellanos followed by pushing a ground ball single through the right side of the infield, then James McCann pulled a ball into the hole at shortstop for an infield single.

Didi Gregorius saved a run on McCann’s single — at least temporarily — because he kept it on the infield, but he had to dive and there was just no way he had time to get up and fire to first for the out. So the bases were loaded on a fly ball that should have been caught and two well-placed ground balls. Stupid baseball, man. Jose Iglesias then plated a run with a single on this not poorly located slider …

Luis Severino Jose Iglesias

… which was the second hardest hit ball of the inning. Anthony Gose grounded out to second to drive in the second run of the inning. I initially thought there was a chance for Starlin Castro to come home for the force out — Castellanos was chugging in from third — but he was playing far too deep, so he instead got the lead runner at second. There was no chance at a double play because Gose runs too well. Some innings, man.

Sevy’s Slider
In a weird way, the Tigers were not a great matchup for Luis Severino because they’re so right-handed. He has issues getting his slider down, and on Friday six of the ten hits he allowed came on sliders. When a right-hander is facing a lineup full of righties, he’s going to throw a lot of sliders. Very few of Severino’s sliders were as good as the one Iglesias singled off in that fourth inning.

Severino’s best secondary pitch right now is his changeup — to be clear, Severino’s slider typically has nasty movement, but he doesn’t command it consistently, so it’s a location issue more than a stuff issue — and he only threw eight of them Friday because the Tigers are so right-handed. That’s a pitch usually reserved for lefties. Also, Severino very rarely pitched inside …

Luis Severino location

… which didn’t help matters. (The plot is from the catcher’s point of view.) I’m not sure if that was the game plan — guys like Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, and J.D. Martinez are going to punish an inside fastball if you miss even a little bit — but Severino didn’t make them move their feet at all. Little too predictable there, kid.

Severino was mostly fine overall. Certainly not overwhelming or dominant, but it was his first start of the year, and it was cold, and he was facing a good team. His final line was three runs on ten hits and no walks in five innings plus two batters. He struck out five and threw 95 pitches. My big takeaway: the slider location still needs work.

Luis Cessa became the final member of the Opening Day roster to get into a game this season. He made his Major League debut in the seventh and struck Justin Upton on four pitches. Not a bad way to begin your career. Cessa then allowed an opposite field home run to Cabrera, so yeah. He struck out two and allowed just the one run in two innings.

The Yankees got their first taste of the new neighborhood play rules. James McCann grounded into a 5-4-3 double play in the eighth, but the replay showed Castro was off the bag when he made the pivot, so the runner at second was ruled safe. It’s amazing MLB is going to such great lengths to make the game safer, yet they eliminated the neighborhood play.

Gregorius went 0-for-3 and saw four pitches total. Castro, in his first game as the No. 3 hitter, went 0-for-4. He banged into one double play and nearly hit into another, but was able to beat the throw at first. Ellsbury, Gardner, and Teixeira actually reached base five times in a dozen plate appearances. (Ellsbury was caught stealing after his single.) The rest of the team reached base twice in 20 plate appearances.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and for the game’s video highlights. Here are the updated standings, if you’re interested. We also have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The former is pretty useful. I’m still not sure why I bother with the latter. Now here’s the loss probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Tigers continue this three-game set Saturday afternoon. That’s another 1pm ET start. CC Sabathia will toe the slab for his first start of the new season. Mike Pelfrey will be on the bump for the Fightin’ Miggys.

Mailbag: Puello, Mitchell, Chapman, Gooden, Nicknames

The ultra-rare Friday matinee game screwed up our usual schedule today, so instead of posting the mailbag first thing, it had to wait until the afternoon. Anyway, I’ve got 14 questions in the mailbag this week. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the email address to use if you want to send us any questions throughout the week.

Puello. (Presswire)
Puello. (Presswire)

Chip asks: Ok Mike, I don’t know what to make of this situation so I come to you for your expert genius. Cesar Puello was a guy I predicted I would get irrationally excited about this spring, but the longer he has stuck around and the better he has performed against actual major leaguers I feel like my excitement may no longer be irrational so what’s the deal? Random guy having an awesome spring or former top prospect who got derailed due to injuries showing what he’s capable of when he stays healthy?

My head says random guy having a big spring, my heart says interesting prospect who was hindered by injuries the last few years. Puello played one (1) game last season due to a back injury, and he’s played a total of 263 games from 2012-15 due to injuries and a Biogenesis related suspension. (Puello is the only player suspended as a result of Biogenesis who has not played in MLB.)

Baseball America ranked Puello as the No. 77 prospect in all of baseball back in 2011, so he has natural ability. Heck, they ranked him as the No. 26 prospect in the Mets’ system prior to last season. It’s not like you have to look too far to see the last time he was a prospect. Here’s a snippet of their scouting report from the 2015 Prospect Handbook:

He has flashed every tool but one — the feel to hit … He has plus raw power and at least average in-game juice, but a wild, impatient plate approach inhibits his ability to get to it consistently. Righthanders with good breaking stuff are especially successful at retiring Puello. An average runner with the instincts to play all three outfield positions capably, he has a plus arm that will play in right field.

Aside from injuries, I’m not sure anything has derailed more talented players than the lack of “the feel to hit.” That’s a tough flaw to correct, especially when you’ve missed as much time as Puello has over the years. He’s worth a flier. Absolutely. And the Yankees should be able to give him Triple-A at-bats while Mason Williams is on the DL.

One thing to keep in mind: Puello is out of options. The Mets added him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft years ago, and he burned through his three option years. He has a year of service time too. The Mets outrighted him last year because he was out of options and wasn’t going to make the team, but then the back injury popped up, so they rescinded the outright and he spent the season on the MLB DL. Puello’s not a guy the Yankees can send up and down. Once he’s up, he’s up.

Chris asks: Do you know if Mitchell will get MLB pay now that the Yankees said he was going to make the Opening day roster?

Yes, he will. Bryan Mitchell is on the 40-man roster and he’s played in the big leagues in each of the last two years, so he’s currently on the Major League DL. They couldn’t send him to Triple-A and stick him on the minor league DL. Being on the DL is just like being on the active roster. Mitchell will get big league pay — the difference between the MLB minimum salary and even well-paid Triple-A players is hundreds of thousands of dollars — and accrue service time. No one wants to get hurt, but if you’re a guy like Mitchell and you get hurt, you want to spend your time on the big league DL.

Rubaiyat asks: Out of all the shuttle relievers, who do you think will stick around the longest in the majors?

This season or long-term? Johnny Barbato looks like he has a chance to stick around a while this year, and I base that on one regular season appearance and a bunch of Spring Training outings, so take it with a grain of salt. I’ve always felt Branden Pinder is a guy who will spent a lot of time in MLB because he does throw hard and have a good slider. He didn’t wow anyone last year, but the kid went up and down six times (!), and that couldn’t have been easy. I’d like to see what Pinder can do when he gets an extended chance to stay on the roster. Jacob Lindgren‘s the other one. His slider is so good. Aside from injuries, rarely do guys with a breaking ball that good become nothing.


Andrew asks: Assuming Chapman has a Chapman type year once he comes back from suspension, what do you think he gets on the open market?

I think he has a chance to set a new reliever contract record. The current record is Jonathan Papelbon’s four-year, $50M deal with the Phillies a few years ago. Papelbon was great, but Aroldis Chapman has been better …

2009-11 Papelbon 2.89 2.72 28.9% 7.5% +5.2
2013-15 Chapman 2.05 1.82 45.3% 11.7% +6.5

… he’ll be two years younger than Papelbon was at the time of his free agency, and salaries have inflated the last few years. Will teams try to ding Chapman for the domestic violence incident and subsequent suspension? Probably. They’ll use whatever they can to create leverage.

A lot of great relievers will be free agents next offseason — Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon, most notably — though I don’t think that will saturate the market. Teams always need high-end relievers. I could see Chapman winding up with a four-year contract at $13M or $14M per season, so $52M to $56M in total money. It’ll probably have an opt-out after two years or something too.

Richard asks: The BP farm rankings you linked to yesterday had the Red Sox at #5 and the Yanks at 16. Had the Yanks signed Moncada instead of the Sox, how would those rankings have changed?

Of course. Yoan Moncada is a legitimate top 15 prospect in all of baseball, maybe top ten, and guys like that are worth several spots in the farm system rankings all by themselves. Is he enough that the Yankees and Red Sox would switch spots? No way. But with Moncada, I think the Yankees would be much closer to the top ten, perhaps as high as No. 11 or 12.

Chris asks: Dwight Gooden. What was the biggest reason for his downfall: cocaine, overuse at an early age, or hitter figuring him out?

I definitely do not believe hitters figured him out. I think it was mostly overuse, and his physically issues were then exacerbated by the drug problems. Gooden threw 191 innings in the minors at age 18, 218 innings in MLB at age 19, and 276 innings in MLB at age 20. That is pretty insane. That’s a huge workload even back in those days. Those 218 innings are the fifth most by a 19-year-old in MLB history. (Three of the four guys ahead of Gooden started their careers prior to 1940.) The 276 innings are the fifth most by a 20-year-old in history. Doc threw a ton of innings at a very young ago, then he did even more damage to his body with the drug abuse. I was way too young to fully appreciate Gooden’s peak. He was incredible.

Brian asks: Who are your favorite non-Yankee announcers? I’m pretty lucky getting Gary Thorne down here in Baltimore and every once in a while like to switch up my feeds.

Thorne is pretty good. He’s in the top ten announcers for me. Vin Scully is still the best in the business in my opinion. There’s nothing better than chilling out at night, watching Clayton Kershaw pitch, and listening to Vin after a long day at the blog factory. Great way to unwind. The Giants (Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow) have a good booth and so do the Mets (Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez). Keith Hernandez is great because he might say something hilariously inappropriate at any time. Example:

Len Kasper (Cubs) and Brian Anderson (Brewers) are great play-by-play men in my opinion. I also really like the Glen Kuiper/Ray Fosse booth for the Athletics. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but Dave Sims, the Mariners play-by-play guy, has really grown on me. When I first purchased back in the day and started watching every team, I couldn’t stand Sims, but now I enjoy him. Go figure.

Ruby asks: Jack Cave was just returned to the Yankees. How common is it for a returned Rule 5 pick to become a significant major leaguer with their original club? What precedents are there with the Yankees?

It seems like it’s much more common for a player to be successful after being returned as a Rule 5 Draft pick than as an actual Rule 5 Draft pick. I guess these players aren’t quite big league ready when they get Rule 5ed, but a few years later, they’re ready to help. Ivan Nova is the most notable example with the Yankees. The Padres took Nova in the 2008 Rule 5 Draft, returned him at the end of Spring Training, and a few years later he became a mainstay in New York.

Other players who have gone on to have big league success after being returned as Rule 5 Draft picks include Ender Inciarte (picked in 2012 by the Phillies), George Kontos (2011 by Padres), R.A. Dickey (2007 by Mariners), Alfredo Simon (2006 by Orioles), and Shane Victorino (2002 by Padres). Victorino was actually a Rule 5 pick twice. He stuck the second time (2004 by Phillies). The success rate is still not very high, but it seems like the players who are returned and get more time to work on their skills in the minors have a better chance of becoming regulars down the line.

Brandon asks: Do you think Nova can perfectly replace Adam Warren? Not sure why but I have a good feeling he’s going to fill the role Warren played last year at the same level.

I don’t know about perfectly, but I do think Nova has a chance to fill that role. The only questions I have are can he a) warm up as quickly as Warren, and b) back as well on back-to-back days? One of Warren’s best attributes was the resiliency of his arm. He threw a few warm up tosses and was ready to go, and he was able to pitch effectively two days in a row. Can Nova do that, especially with Tommy John surgery in the not too distant past? The Yankees gave him almost an inning and a half to warm up the other night, after all.

Don asks: Beltran’s ground out in the first inning got me thinking. He grounded out with runners on second and third, but got the run in and moved the runner up from second to third, a very productive out. Yet, he starts 0-1. If he hit a fly ball and had the same productive result he would be 0-0 with the sacrifice. It’s understandable why a bunt would be a sacrifice because you are giving yourself up, but why the distinction between a Fly out and a ground out?

I’ve had this in the back of my mind for years and I’ve never found a satisfactory answer. Most things I’ve read say it’s because sacrifice flies are considering intentional. The batter was trying to hit the ball in the air to score the run. A run-scoring ground out is considered a ball that was mis-hit, so to speak. I’ve also seen the argument that an RBI ground out is considered a fielder’s choice, implying the fielder could have thrown home for the out but chose not to. I don’t have a good answer for this. I’m of the belief sacrifice flies should be considered at-bats and count against batting average because the hitter had a chance to get a hit and did not. How many hitters are truly up there trying to hit a sac fly? Most of them are up there trying to get a hit, and they settle for a sac fly. The hitter’s intent to give himself up is far more obvious with sac bunts.

Frank asks: I was looking at an article from Fangraphs’ author Cistilli, and I noticed that Didi had a WAR of 3.1 with a wRC+89 in 2015. While Wilmer Flores only had a WAR of 1.9 and he had a wRC+95. Both are good fielders but I am a little confused about the discrepancy in WAR. Can you explain this?

It’s the defense. Flores is not a good defender at all, which is why the Mets went with Ruben Tejada as their regular shortstop in the second half last year, and turned Wilmer into a bench player this year. Last season Gregorius had a +5 DRS and +7.4 UZR. Flores was at -10 DRS and -2.5 UZR at shortstop. That’s the difference right there.


Victor asks: Do you think the Yankees consider Teixeira on 1 year deal with a club option for a 2nd year?

Assuming Mark Teixeira doesn’t fall off a cliff this year — and assuming it doesn’t screw up the plan to get under the luxury tax threshold — I think the Yankees would strongly consider re-signing him to a one-year contract with an option regardless of Greg Bird‘s status. If Bird’s rehab comes along slowly for any reason, pursuing Teixeira on those terms is a no-brainer. And even if his rehab is going well, Teixeira is added depth and would give the team the luxury of sending Bird to Triple-A to knock off any rust. The Yankees aren’t spending like they once did, but I think it’s the big money long-term deals that scare them. A one-year deal for Teixeira, who they know very well, is something the team may be open to.

Paul asks: On a day after Nova pitches, who is most likely to be the guy to take one for the team and pitch 3-4 innings in the event of an emergency?

I have to think it’s Luis Cessa right now. He got stretched out to three innings in Spring Training, so the Yankees could probably send Cessa out there for four innings right now, as long as his pitch count doesn’t get out of control. Barbato and Kirby Yates are true short relievers. One or two innings at the most. Cessa is a starter by trade and he’s somewhat stretched out.

Sean asks: Do we know Girardi’s nickname for each guy on the 25 man roster? What % end in -y?

Oh this is a good one. Let’s build a table and try to fill in the blanks.

Player Nickname Player Nickname
Johnny Barbato  ? Brian McCann  Mac
Dellin Betances  ? Austin Romine  ?
Luis Cessa  ? Starlin Castro Starsky (yup)
Nathan Eovaldi  Evo Didi Gregorius  Didi
Andrew Miller  ? Chase Headley  Head
Ivan Nova  ? Mark Teixeira  Tex
Michael Pineda  ? Ronald Torreyes  ?
CC Sabathia  C Dustin Ackley  ?
Luis Severino  Sevy Carlos Beltran  ?
Chasen Shreve Shrevey? Jacoby Ellsbury  Ells
Masahiro Tanaka  ? Brett Gardner  Gardy
Kirby Yates  ? Aaron Hicks  Hicksy
Alex Rodriguez  Al

Much harder than I expected! I guess maybe that’s because there was so much bench and bullpen turnover this year. (No more Jonesy, for example.) I feel like I’ve heard Girardi call Shreve “Shrevey” before, but I wonder if I’m being confused by everyone joking around and calling him that.

Some guys, like Sabathia and Gregorius, don’t really need nicknames. Heck, Didi already is a nickname. (Didi’s real name is Mariekson Julius Gregorius.) Girardi calls A-Rod “Al” pretty much all the time. Al or Alex. So which ones am I missing? I feel like I’m blanking on a bunch of obvious nicknames here.

Game Four: Severino Friday


For the first time this season, the Yankees are on the road away from Yankee Stadium. They begin a six-game road trip this afternoon in Detroit — today is the Tigers’ home opener — against a Tigers team that is looking to go back to the postseason after finishing in last place a year ago. The Tigers had basically the opposite offseason of the Yankees. They spent big on free agents to plug their roster holes.

Enough about the Tigers though. Young Luis Severino is on the mound this afternoon, and based on his limited work last season, you could argue he is the Yankees’ best starting pitcher. I’m not sure I’d go that far just yet, but the point is he’s in the conversation. Soon it could be crystal clear. Severino’s importance to the Yankees both in the short and long-term can not be overstated. He’s a hugely critical piece of the puzzle. Here is the Tigers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup, which looks very much like the lineup you’d expect to see for a day game following a night of travel:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. DH Mark Teixeira
  5. 1B Dustin Ackley
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. RF Aaron Hicks
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Luis Severino

It’s sunny — cold, but sunny — in Detroit right now, and there is some rain and snow in the forecast later tonight. It looks like the wet stuff will stay away long enough for them to get the game in, thankfully. Could be a problem if they go to extra innings though. Today’s game will begin just after 1pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Bullpen Update: Joe Girardi said Ivan Nova, who threw 56 pitches Wednesday night, will not be available today or tomorrow. He should be good to go by Sunday though.

Lineup Update: Girardi said everyone is healthy, he’s just resting his veterans. “I’m trying to stay ahead of it … I’m not running out a bunch of 25 and 26-year-old kids,” said the skipper to Erik Boland. The Yankees have been talking about giving their regulars more rest since the end of last season.

4/8 to 4/10 Series Preview: Detroit Tigers

Ausmus. (Presswire)
Ausmus. (Presswire)

It’s time for the first road trip of the season. The Yankees begin a six-game, seven-day road trip this afternoon in Detroit. It is the Tigers’ home opener, hence the afternoon game. The two teams will be in Comerica Park for three games this weekend.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Tigers played two games in Miami earlier this week to open the 2016 season. Detroit swept the two-game series — they won the first game 8-7 in eleven innings, and the second game 7-3 in regulation time — and they are currently one of only five remaining undefeated teams this season. The Orioles, Cubs, Pirates, and Reds are the others. The Reds!

Offense & Defense

Last season the Tigers finished in last place, partly because they scored only 4.28 runs per game, the sixth lowest total in the league. Over the winter they added OF Justin Upton and OF Cameron Maybin, and committed to C James McCann behind the plate. (Maybin is out with a broken wrist.) They’ll also have a full season of 1B Miguel Cabrera. He was limited to 119 games by a calf strain last season.

Because the season is still so very young — Upton leads the Tigers in plate appearances with eleven — I’m going to do what I did with the last series preview. Here are the 2015 performances and 2016 ZiPS projections for everyone on Detroit’s roster. Sorry for dumping a big glob of numbers on you so early on a Friday morning.

2015 Performance 2016 ZiPS
C James McCann
.264/.297/.387 (85 wRC+), 7 HR, 1 SB .253/.288/.360 (75 wRC+), 6 HR, 3 SB
1B Miguel Cabrera
.338/.440/.534 (165 wRC+), 18 HR, 1 SB .306/.389/.517 (144 wRC+), 24 HR, 2 SB
2B Ian Kinsler
.296/.342/.428 (111 wRC+), 11 HR, 10 SB .277/.324/.411 (100 wRC+), 12 HR, 11 SB
SS Jose Iglesias
.300/.347/.370 (97 wRC+), 2 HR, 1 SB .275/.322/.343 (82 wRC+), 3 HR, 9 SB
3B Nick Castellanos
.255/.303/.419 (94 wRC+), 15 HR, 0 SB .264/.314/.428 (101 wRC+), 16 HR, 1 SB
LF Justin Upton
.251/.336/.454 (120 wRC+), 26 HR, 19 SB .265/.348/.481 (125 wRC+), 28 HR, 13 SB
CF Anthony Gose
.254/.321/.367 (90 wRC+), 5 HR, 23 SB .247/.312/.351 (83 wRC+), 6 HR, 26 SB
RF J.D. Martinez
.282/.344/.535 (137 wRC+), 38 HR, 3 SB .282/.340/.535 (135 wRC+), 35 HR, 5 SB
DH Victor Martinez
.245/.301/.366 (77 wRC+), 11 HR, 0 SB .279/.338/.451 (109 wRC+), 18 HR, 1 SB
C Jarrod Salty
.225/.310/.435 (100 wRC+), 9 HR, 0 SB .225/.307/.394 (90 wRC+), 12 HR, 1 SB
IF Andrew Romine
.255/.307/.315 (70 wRC+), 2 HR, 10 SB .240/.289/.307 (63 wRC+), 3 HR, 10 SB
OF Tyler Collins
.266/.316/.417 (99 wRC+), 4 HR, 2 SB .239/.294/.370 (80 wRC+), 12 HR, 8 SB
UTIL Mike Aviles
.231/.282/.317 (65 wRC+), 5 HR, 3 SB .249/.282/.346 (69 wRC+), 6 HR, 1 SB

Jarrod Salty is Jarrod Saltalamacchia. His name is too damn long and it was screwing up the table formatting, so I had to shorten it. Anyway, the Tigers still have a very dangerous lineup. Cabrera is one of the best pure hitters in the world and J.D. Martinez has broken out as a big time power threat. The Astros released him two years ago, the Tigers picked him up, tweaked his swing a bit, and he’s hit 61 homers the last two seasons.

Victor Martinez did not play in the team’s first two games of the season because there was no DH during the interleague series in Miami, but he came off the bench and managed to hit a pinch-hit home run in both games. He’s currently rocking a 1,340 wRC+. Manager Brad Ausmus stacks his best hitters at the top of the lineup. He doesn’t get cute by sticking a bat control guy (Iglesias) in the two-hole or anything like that. Kinsler, Upton, Miggy, and the Martinezes (Martini?) are his 1-5 hitters. That’s a tough stretch of lineup right there.

Defensively, the Tigers are not so good. Castellanos is probably the worst defensive third baseman in the game today. He’d be at first or DH (maybe left field) for most teams, but the Tigers don’t have room for him in those spots. Upton and Martinez are weak in the outfield corners too. Here is Sean Dolinar’s cool defensive visualization for the Tigers:

Tigers defense

I’m surprised to see the numbers don’t like Gose in center field. Of course, Gose recently called defensive stats a “big scam” and insinuated they’re designed to make players look bad so the owners save money. I guess we’ll get three games to judge him with our own eyes this weekend.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (1pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. DET) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (vs. NYY)
This offseason Zimmermann became the first pitcher in baseball history to sign a $100M+ contract after having Tommy John surgery. (Shin-Soo Choo did it previously as a position player.) The Tigers signed the 29-year-old Zimmermann to a five-year contract worth $110M because, well, he’s really good. He had a 3.66 ERA (3.75 FIP) in 201.2 innings last year and it was a down year. The year before that he had a 2.66 ERA (2.68 FIP) in 199.2 innings. Zimmermann has never been a huge strikeout guy (19.7% in 2015) nor a huge ground ball guy (42.0%), but he limits walks (4.7%) and excels at getting weak contact. If you square him up though, you can do some damage (1.07 HR/9). Historically Zimmermann has been far more effective against righties than lefties, mostly because he doesn’t have much of a changeup. He threw his mid-80s changeup only 2.7% of the time from 2013-15, including 0.3% of the time in 2015. Zimmermann uses his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer — he has long been considered a guy whose fastball plays up because it has a lot of life, which folks are attempting to quantify these days using spin rate — to set up his mid-to-upper-80s slider and low-80s curveball. I’m interested to watch Zimmermann going forward. He’s coming off a down but still very good year, and is making the NL-to-AL transition.


Saturday (1pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. DET) vs. RHP Mike Pelfrey (vs. NYY)
I am convinced Pelfrey is the next Jamey Wright. We’re going to look up in about ten years, and Pelfrey’s still going to be there, signing minor league contracts each offseason and helping teams as the last man on the staff. Before you know it the guy’s going to have a 20-year career. Anyway, Pelfrey, 32, signed a two-year deal worth $8M per season over the winter. He had a 4.26 ERA (4.00 FIP) with an awful strikeout rate (12.0%) but good to great walk (6.3%), grounder (50.8%), and homer (0.60 HR/9) numbers in 164.2 innings with the Twins a year ago. Last season was the first full healthy season of his career in which he had a big platoon split. Big Pelf has a sinker right around 94 mph and he throws it a lot, more than 70% of the time last year. A low-80s splitter is his main secondary pitch, but he only threw that 15% of the time a year ago. The remaining 15% of his arsenal is filled by below-average sliders and curves, and get-me-over four-seam fastballs in 3-0 counts. That lack of a knockout secondary pitch is the reason Pelfrey hasn’t been able to live up to the hype of being the ninth overall pick in the country (2005). He’s serviceable, but that’s about it.

Sunday (8pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. DET) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (vs. NYY)
Verlander, now 33, is the longest tenured Tiger. It wasn’t too long ago that he was the best pitcher in the world, and even though those days are over, he was very good last year — did you know he had a 3.38 ERA (3.49 FIP) in 2015? I bet you didn’t — and looks primed for a great 2016 now that he’s over the lingering triceps injury that hampering him for much of last summer. His strikeout rate is only a touch better than league average these days (21.1%), but he still doesn’t walk anyone (6.0%) and he remains a pop-up master. That why he had a better than average 0.88 HR/9 despite a microscopic 34.6% grounder rate last year. Verlander’s had a pretty significant reverse split the last few seasons because his upper-80s changeup is so good. To wit:

Justin Verlander changeup

Nasty. Verlander doesn’t throw 100 mph on the regular like he did earlier in his career — PitchFX says he threw his last 100+ mph pitch in September 2013 — but he can still hump it up into the mid-90s. He also still has that hammer curveball and a sneaky good slider. At his peak, Verlander was operating with two 80 pitches (fastball, curveball) on the 20-80 scale and a third that was a 60 or so (changeup). Everything is down a grade or two nowadays, which is still enough to be effective. Verlander took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Marlins on Opening Day. He was ultimately charged with three runs on three hits and two walks in six innings.

Bullpen Status

The Tigers have a bad bullpen. I don’t even know if that’s correct, but it’s been true for so long that I assume that’s the case. New closer RHP Francisco Rodriguez has already blown a save, coughing up a three-run lead in the ninth inning on Opening Day. The relief corps has been pretty good aside from that, allowing two runs in 7.2 innings in the first two games of the year. Here is their bullpen and some numbers:

2015 Performance 2016 ZiPS
RHP Francisco Rodriguez
2.21 ERA (2.91 FIP), 28.7 K%, 5.1 BB% 3.33 ERA (3.35 FIP), 24.0 K%, 5.5 BB%
RHP Mark Lowe
1.96 ERA (2.56 FIP), 28.4%, 5.6 BB% 3.69 ERA (3.44 FIP), 23.8 K%, 7.0 BB%
LHP Justin Wilson
3.10 ERA (2.69 FIP), 27.1 K%, 8.2 BB% 3.63 ERA (3.48 FIP), 22.6 K%, 9.4 BB%
RHP Logan Kensing
2.23 ERA (3.57 FIP) in Triple-A 4.72 ERA (4.70 FIP), 15.4 K%, 10.0 BB%
RHP Drew VerHagen
2.05 ERA (4.35 FIP), 18.0 K%, 9.4 BB% 4.40 ERA (4.20 FIP), 13.9 K%, 9.5 BB%
LHP Kyle Ryan
4.47 ERA (5.26 FIP), 12.7 K%, 8.4 BB% 5.22 ERA (4.78 FIP), 12.0 K%, 7.3 BB%
RHP Buck Farmer
7.36 ERA (6.65 FIP), 12.9 K%, 9.1 BB% 5.61 ERA (5.23 FIP), 16.6%, 7.9 BB%

Ausmus is currently without RHP Alex Wilson, who was the team’s best reliever from start to finish last season. He’s on the 15-day DL with a sore shoulder. Also, former hotshot prospect RHP Bruce Rondon is in Triple-A because he continues to struggle with a) throwing strikes with his upper-90s heater, and b) his conditioning. Those are two guys I’m sure the Tigers were hoping would be big pieces of the bullpen out of the gate.

The three guys at the back of the bullpen (K-Rod, Lowe, Wilson) look like a formidable trio, assuming they repeat their 2015 numbers and don’t pitch to the projections. Justin Wilson is basically the same thing as Aroldis Chapman, I hear. Death, taxes, the Tigers having a bad bullpen. It is the natural order of things.

Yankeemetrics: Welcome back, baseball (April 5-7)

(AP Photo)
Just call me Starsky. (AP Photo)

Deja Boooooo
After nearly five months of waiting for meaningful baseball games, the Yankees’ 2016 season started in familiar fashion with a loss to the Astros and Dallas Keuchel at Yankee Stadium, the same way the 2015 campaign ended.

The good news is that they managed to score against Keuchel, who entered the game with a 1.12 regular-season career ERA against the Yankees — the third-lowest by any pitcher in the last 100 seasons (min. three starts) — and riding a 28-inning scoreless streak versus the team. The bad news is that the end result was the same: another frustrating loss to open the season.

For the fifth year in a row and the seventh time in eight tries, the Yankees dropped game No. 1 on the schedule, matching the franchise record for most consecutive losses in season openers. The mark was set nearly eight decades ago, when they lost five straight Opening Day games from 1934-38.

Still, there were some notable highlights midst the carnage. Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius made history when they took the field as the first Yankee middle infield duo to start on Opening Day at age 26 or younger since Willie Randolph and Bucky Dent in 1978.

Castro then doubled in the first two Yankee runs of the season, becoming the first Yankee second baseman with a multi-RBI game on Opening Day since Alfonso Soriano in 2003 (Robinson who?). Gregorius completed the scoring with an eighth-inning homer. The only other shortstops in franchise history to homer on Opening Day were Derek Jeter (three times) and Bucky Dent (1981).

This is the first time in the last 100 seasons of Yankee baseball that both of the team’s middle infielders each had an extra base hit and an RBI in a season opener.

Sweet Sixteen
The temps were still chilly on Wednesday night but the Yankee bats heated up as they crushed the Astros, 16-6, in the middle game of this series.

Castro stole the show for the second straight day, delivering four hits while driving in five runs. The only other Yankees with at least four hits and five RBI in a game this early into the season were Bill Dickey (1934), Yogi Berra (1956) and Tino Martinez (1997).

His seven RBI in the first two games are the most by any Yankee in his first two contests with the team, and matched the franchise record for most RBI in the team’s first two games of the season. The three other guys to do that each have a plaque in Monument Park: Babe Ruth (1932), Berra and Martinez.

Mark Teixeira chipped in another two hits and four RBI, giving the team a rare offensive explosion from the right side of the infield. The last time the Yankees had their first baseman and second baseman each record at least two hits and drive in four or more runs in the same game was July 7, 1935. A couple Hall of Famers, Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri, combined for six hits and 11 RBI against the Senators.

The other dugout featured a young slugging phenom, too, as 21-year-old Astros shortstop Carlos Correa went 4-for-5 with two homers in the losing effort. Correa became the youngest player with four-plus hits, including at least two homers, in a game against the Yankees over the last 100 years.

Eight is enough
The Yankees took the opening series of the season after beating Houston, 8-5, in the rubber game on Thursday.

The offense has stolen the headlines in the first week of the season. This is now the seventh time the Yankees have scored at least 27 runs in the first three games combined. They won the AL pennant in five of the six previous seasons it happened, and the World Series three times.

The team’s seven homers are tied for the fourth-most through three games in franchise history, while their .962 OPS is the second-best by a Yankee team in the Wild Card Era this early into the season.

The pitching, on the other hand, has been less than good (mild understatement, yes!). They’ve allowed at least five runs in each of the first three games, making their 2-1 start even more impressive. The last time the Yankees gave up five-plus runs in three straight games to begin the season — yet still emerged with a winning record — was 1962.

Teixeira had the biggest hit of the game, a tie-breaking three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning that gave the Yankees a 8-5 lead. It was his 396th career home run, tying Joe Carter for 57th place on the all-time MLB list, and it was his 193rd with the Yankees, passing Tino Martinez for 17th on the Yankees leaderboard.

Castro, too, continued his scorching-hot start with another multi-hit game and a homer. His 1.250 slugging percentage and 1.833 OPS are both the best marks by any Yankee middle infielder with at least 10 plate appearances in the team’s first three games.

DotF: Mateo, Andujar lead Tampa to a win on Opening Day

I hate to start the first DotF of the season with bad news, but … bad news: Jim Callis says C Luis Torrens has been shut down after experiencing discomfort in his surgically repaired shoulder during Spring Training. Bummer. He missed all of last season following labrum surgery, but was healthy enough to do some baseball work in Instructional League last fall. Hopefully this is just a minor blip and he’s back soon.

If you missed it yesterday, we posted a ton of minor league notes, so check that out if you haven’t already. And if you didn’t miss it, check it out again anyway. In honor of DotF tradition, here are the full lineups on Opening Day.

Triple-A Scranton‘s game was suspended due to rain after four innings. They’ll finish it tomorrow. CF Slade Heathcott had two hits and C Gary Sanchez threw a runner out from his knees, so says Donnie Collins. Here’s the box score.

[Read more…]

Teixeira’s go-ahead home run propels Yankees to 8-5 win over Astros

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Hey look, first win streak of the season! After several innings of chasing the lead (and tying the game), Yankees won Thursday’s game on a decisive Mark Teixeira three-run homer in the bottom of seventh. After dropping the season opener, New York won the next two to also the series as well.

Selectively Nasty Nate

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi flashed some nasty stuff: fastball hitting 100, slider and splitter at around low-90’s. Even when the weather wasn’t optimal for pitchers today, he flashed that mid-season heat that would make some forget about the frigid weather in Bronx for the last few days.

But all that didn’t stop from Astros’ bats fro scoring runs off him. In the top of the second, 1B Tyler White hit his first career home run. He had allowed a double to Luis Valbuena on a 89 mph slider and White hit a 87 mph splitter out of the park. With the next batter, against Preston Tucker, Eovaldi gave up another dinger and Houston led 3-0. If you are a Yankee fan, it’s not what you want, especially considering that Eovaldi isn’t exactly known for gopher balls (0.58 HR/9 last year).

That was not all for Eovaldi either. The fourth inning sort of summarized his outing: hard stuff, hard hits. He allowed three hits – one of them a deep double by Carlos Gomez – but also struck out two. Nate showed flashes of being an overpowering pitcher while allowing hard-hit balls without completely breaking down overall. Eovaldi’s final line – 5 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 7 K’s and 2 HR’s allowed – should reflect that. It’s not the prettiest start from Nasty Nate but there are positives.

Fighting for the lead, one at a time

The Yankees had a chance to score in bottom of second with one out and runners on corners. Chase Headley hit a sac fly to drive Teixeira in from third to make it 3-1. It didn’t seem like Headley drove the ball that well but the wind pushed the ball back further. Next up was Starlin Castro, who has been hitting cover off the ball this series. He got another hit but got thrown out on the second trying to stretch the double to end the inning. Off the bat, the ball was hit hard enough to be a home run but it just wasn’t high enough to clear the fence. Castro didn’t really bust out of the batter’s box either.

New York tacked on another run in the third when Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to deep right to score Didi Gregorius for a 3-2 score. They had even bigger hits in the fourth to continue the chase. Brian McCann took the first pitch from Mike Fiers in his second at-bat deep to cut the deficit to 5-3, and Castro followed it up with a solo homer of his own to make it 5-4.

Speaking of whom, how about Starlin Castro? We’ve gushed over his hot start here in RAB and today added more for us to admire. Sure, it’s too early to call it a success after three ML games but he *has* hit for a 1.833 OPS and played vital roles in offense for all of them. he’s a young player who’s clearly talented – he just has to maintain that success consistently.

It wasn’t just Castro who was hot today – the top five of the lineup (Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, A-Rod, Teixeira and McCann) combined for 9-for-21 today, which is always what you want.

Tex message to the other way

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

New York tied the game up 5-5 in the bottom of fifth with A-Rod’s first base hit of the year driving in Ellsbury. Two innings later, they took a lead against two impressive Astros relievers – Will Harris and Ken Giles. Harris had a great 2015 campaign with a 1.90 ERA in 71.0 IP while Giles was one of the most dominating relievers in ML, striking out 11.19 batters in 9 IP with a 1.80 ERA.

Harris got Ellsbury to ground out to start the frame. Gardner followed it up with a single, which prompted A.J. Hinch to bring in Ken Giles to minimize the damage. Giles, facing A-Rod, challenged him with two very hard fastballs – Rodriguez swung and missed on both, looking a little bit late. However, on the next pitch – another heater – A-Rod caught up to it and singled to center to put two runners with one out.

Teixeira was the next hitter. On a 1-0 count, Tex hit an outside 98 mph fastball that cleared the left field fence (just barely) for a three-run homer, giving Yankees their first lead of the day. I do not know if that would have been a home run in many ballparks but I will say this: it was hit hard and would have brought in at least a run or two in neutral parks. Giles, by the way, only allowed two home runs in all of 2015. In this series, he allowed two in two appearances. Baseball can be weird like that.

The scripted finish

Today, Dellin Betances looked like the Dellin Betances we’ve all come to know. At his best, he can make hitters look silly by making them chase at a curve down the dirt, and that’s exactly what he did to both Carlos Correa and Colby Rasmus.

Following Betances was, as always, Andrew Miller. Miller didn’t exactly have a squeaky clean outing, allowing two hits in the ninth inning. He did, however, strike out the side to wrap the game up and earn his first save of the year. His stuff looked pretty good, not showing any ill effects from chipped right wrist.


Speaking of relievers – Kirby Yates made his Yankee debut today in the sixth and I’d say he did well – in a scoreless frame he allowed a hit but struck out two. I don’t know how he will perform moving forward but if he can register and outing like that frequently, he can be a nice piece throughout the season.

Here are the box score, highlights, and WPA graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Yankees go onto their first road trip of the year tomorrow, playing the Detroit Tigers for a three-game weekend series in Comerica Park.