Kuroda and McCann carry Yankees to 5-1 win over Red Sox


Source: FanGraphs

After a couple of rough losses these last five or six days, the Yankees rebounded with a sound 5-1 win over the Red Sox on Wednesday night. They pitched very well, they hit well, and they even played some nice defense too. Just don’t ask about the base-running. We’ll turn a blind eye to that. With the win, the Yankees clinched at least a tie of the season series against Boston for the eighth time in the last ten years.

I had plans tonight and missed the bulk of the game — I left right after that ridiculous double caught stealing in the first and got home in time to see Dellin Betances fan Mookie Betts in the eighth — so I can’t really talk about it in too much detail. Brian McCann had four hits including a two-run homer, and it would be really great if he finished the year strong so he can go into the offseason feeling good about himself. Brett Gardner singled in Jacoby Ellsbury for another run and Ellsbury sacrifice flied in Chase Headley to score another run. McCann singled in the fifth and final run in the seventh. Carlos Beltran was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

Hiroki Kuroda was fantastic, holding the Red Sox to one run on a double and three singles in seven innings of work. He struck out eight and did not walk a batter. Kuroda was on extra rest thanks to Monday’s off-day and he simply looks so much better whenever he gets an extra day or two. He now has a 3.30 ERA (3.32 FIP) in his last 17 starts and 109 innings dating back to June 1st. That is more or less the good version of 2012-13 Kuroda. He’s going out in style, assuming he is going out at all. Betances and David Robertson each allowed a base-runner in otherwise uneventful eighth and ninth innings to close out the win.

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has some additional stats, and ESPN has the updated standings. The Yankees are now four games back of the Tigers for the second wildcard spot with two other teams ahead of them. FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at 3.0% with 25 games remaining. Brandon Workman and ex-Red Sox Chris Capuano will be the pitching matchup in Thursday night’s series finale. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch the game live.

Game 137: Back At It

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Last night did not go well for the Yankees at all. They didn’t pitch well and they couldn’t get out of their own way offensively. But this is baseball, and they’re back at it tonight with a chance to win. Both my favorite and least favorite thing about baseball is that they play every single day. Forget about last night and get back in the win column tonight. Here is the Red Sox lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. LF Brett Gardner
  4. DH Carlos Beltran
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. C Brian McCann
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. RF Ichiro Suzuki
    RHP Hiroki Kuroda

It’s much nicer in New York today than it has been the last few days. Cooler and not nearly as humid, with just a few clouds. Nice night for baseball. Tonight’s game will start a little after 7pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy the game.

Martin Prado day-to-day with mild hamstring strain

Martin Prado is day-to-day with a “mild, mild” left hamstring strain, Joe Girardi announced. Prado will not play tonight and he is unlikely to play tomorrow, but he could be good in time for Friday’s series opener against the Royals. He left last night’s game with tightness in the hamstring and had an MRI today. Prado has been one of the team’s best hitters these last few weeks, so losing him hurts.

Teixeira’s production slipping with each passing month

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Coming into 2014, one of the bigger reasons to believe the Yankees would have an improved offense was the return of Mark Teixeira after he missed all of last season. Is he the same player he was a few years ago? Of course not. But even after wrist surgery it was a pretty good bet he would outproduce Lyle Overbay, and he has (106 vs. 86 wRC+). Overbay did an admirable job last summer, but the lack of first base production was part of the team’s downfall.

Teixeira changed his batting stance in Spring Training at the behest of hitting coach Kevin Long, who reportedly noticed his first baseman had picked up on some bad habits coming off surgery. Remember, Teixeira wasn’t 100% recovered at the start of camp, he was still easing back into things and did not play games until early-March. As I wrote in this May mailbag, Teixeira made the same adjustments as Curtis Granderson back in 2010: he closed his stance, stood more upright, lowered his hands, and used a two-handed follow-through.

The changes seemed to work too. Teixeira went deep five times in his first 15 games of the season and nine times in his first 27 games, good for a .271/.375/.573 (164 wRC+) batting line in 112 plate appearances. Obviously we all knew he wasn’t going to hit quite that well all season, but proving he was still able to hit for power so soon after wrist surgery was important. There was some hope he would be a capable middle of the order power hitter for a team in need of one, even after signing Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann.

The production hasn’t lasted, of course. Teixeira has hit .204/.305/.358 (85 wRC+) with only eleven homers in 318 plate appearances across his last 76 games. There have been some minor injuries — wrist inflammation, lat strain, finger contusion — mixed in during that time, but nothing that required a DL stint or even forced him to miss more than a week. Furthermore, Teixeira’s production has declined with each passing month:

PA AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ ISO HR HR/FB%
April 48 .231/.375/.487 145 .256 3 27.3%
May 106 .247/.368/.472 136 .225 6 23.1%
June 99 .241/.303/.471 109 .230 6 21.4%
July 75 .203/.320/.375 95 .172 3 16.7%
August 98 .193/.276/.307 64 .114 2 7.1%

Teixeira was able to continue hitting for power through the month of June before losing 58 points of ISO in July and another 58 points of ISO in August. His homer totals dropped accordingly. Combine that with fewer base hits in general — his walk rate has remained strong all season, with the normal peaks and valleys — and you suddenly get one really unproductive cleanup hitter in July and especially August.

So now the question becomes why has Teixeira’s performance fallen off these last few months? That’s tough to answer, especially because it may simply be “he’s not healthy.” The guy is coming off wrist surgery, after all, plus he’s shown a knack for all sorts of other bumps and bruises. Who knows what Teixeira might be hiding or trying to play through, or how the combination of injuries is starting to take its toll. We can’t know from where we sit.

As for some numbers, the amazing Baseball Savant says Teixeira’s average distance on balls hit in the air was actually at its highest in July, and August was higher than both April and May. Month-by-month pitch selection data for hitters usually doesn’t tell you anything useful other than at the extremes, and it isn’t particularly enlightening with Teixeira:

Batted Ball Distance (ft)
FB% CH% CB% SL%
April 217.8 69.5% 9.8% 10.4% 8.3%
May 233.0 57.0% 17.7% 12.7% 11.7%
June 249.8 62.2% 16.0% 9.8% 10.9%
July 254.6 69.0% 10.3% 8.0% 10.0%
August 234.7 60.0% 22.2% 9.2% 8.4%

Basically all this tells us is Teixeira is still hitting the ball has far as he has all year and pitchers have not substantially changed the way they’re pitching him. Those month-by-month changes in pitch selection are just the natural ebbs and flow of baseball. I’m not even going to bother posting the spray charts because they’re one big garbled mess that look no different from month to month because he’s a switch-hitter.

Figuring out the cause of Teixeira’s power outage is little more than guesswork. Maybe he just stinks at baseball now. That’s always possible. The wrist could be bothering him, Long could have given him bad guidance — Teixeira is still using his “new” stance, for what it’s worth — maybe Foul Territory is taking up too much of his time, or maybe it’s something else entirely. Who knows what else is going on behind the scenes. What we do know for sure is that Teixeira’s production has dropped considerably as the season has progressed.

For all the recent talk about dropping Derek Jeter in the lineup, Teixeira doesn’t belong in the cleanup spot either. Ideally he’d bat seventh or eighth at this point, he’s been that bad these last few weeks, but you can’t bat everyone in the lineup seventh or eighth. The Yankees have a whole lotta number seven and eight hitters on the roster right now. Teixeira started the season very well and I was thrilled he was that productive so soon after wrist surgery. The production didn’t last though, and his fade is a reason why the Yankees are so far out of a postseason spot.

David Phelps throws bullpen session, could return next week

Via Chad Jennings: David Phelps threw fastballs and changeups as part of a 25-pitch bullpen session yesterday, his first time throwing off a mound since going down with elbow inflammation last month. “I know that we’ve been going kind of conservative with it just to make sure everything comes back,” he said. “All of the steps have been good along the way, so it shouldn’t be too long.”

Phelps, 27, will throw all of his pitches during a 35-pitch bullpen session on Friday. If that goes well, he will throw a simulated game on Sunday. I assume that would be the final step before he is activated off the disabled list. The Yankees have already announced Phelps will return as a reliever — at this point of the season there isn’t enough time to get him stretched back out even if they wanted him to start — and I assume he will jump right into the late-game mix once healthy.