Yankeemetrics: The fork in the road [July 15-17]

(AP)
(AP)

Different half, same Yankees
Four days of rest did little to change the narrative of the Yankees’ 2016 season. The faint glimmer of hope that flickered after the Yankees notched a huge pre-break series victory over the AL Central-leading Indians was quickly extinguished as the Yankees suffered another depressing defeat, 5-3, to the Red Sox on Friday night.

The loss dropped the Yankees to 44-45, the first time they’ve had a sub-.500 record at any point after the All-Star break since 1995. That season, after losing to Mariners on September 5, the Yankees fell to 60-61 but then went 19-4 down the stretch to capture the AL Wild Card.

It was a familiar Jekyll-and-Hyde performance for Michael Pineda, who has been maddeningly inconsistent this entire season. He flashed some electric stuff in the first few innings as he retired the first eight batters, including four via strikeouts, but then fell apart.

He was undone by a few poorly located fastballs that the Red Sox crushed, resulting in three homers and five runs surrendered in five innings. Opponents have slugged .648 against his cut fastball, the highest slugging percentage allowed on a fastball (four-seam, two-seam, cut) by any pitcher in the majors (min. 150 batted balls).

Carlos Beltran’s two-run single in the sixth inning helped the Yankees avoid a shutout and marked a historic milestone for the 39-year-old as he became the fourth switch-hitter to with 1,500 career RBI (Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones, Mickey Mantle).

The hit also put Beltran in a select group of prolific run-producers who also possessed the key speed tool. He is just the fifth player in major-league history with at least 300 stolen bases and 1,500 RBI joining Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays and Andre Dawson.

Sabathia sinking fast
Not even a matchup with the pitcher who owned the AL’s highest ERA (minimum five starts) could spark the Yankees anemic offense on Saturday afternoon.

Eduardo Rodriguez and his 8.59 ERA silenced the Yankee bats, who were held to two runs or fewer for the 35th time in 90 games this season in a 5-2 loss at the Stadium. That’s the Yankees’ most games of no more than two runs scored — at the 90-game mark — since the designated hitter rule was established in 1973.

sabathia long game 2
(Getty)

Despite his struggles this season, Rodriguez has a history of dominating the Yankees and now owns a 2.01 ERA in five career starts against them. He hasn’t given up more than two runs in each of those outings, the first Red Sox pitcher to post five straight starts with two runs or fewer against the Yankees in nearly five decades (Dave Morehead, 1965-68).

It was another ineffective outing by CC Sabathia, who continued his downward spiral with five runs allowed in five-plus innings. He’s now given up at least five runs in five straight starts, the first time he’s ever put together a streak like that in his career.

Opponents are crushing his sinker, slugging a ridiculous .633 off the pitch during this horrid five-game stretch, a 300-point increase from his first 11 starts of the season. The two-seamer has also lost its effectiveness as a weak-contact weapon for Sabathia: the pitch has a ground ball rate of just 28 percent in his last five outings compared to 49 percent in his first 11 games.

Feeling the heat in July
The Yankees avoided the sweep and kept the For Sale sign in the closet for at least another day as they beat the Red Sox, 3-1, on Sunday night. They overcame an early deficit to notch their 27th comeback win of the season — that’s a whopping 60 percent of their 45 total wins. Last year, only 46 percent (40 of 87) of their wins were of the come-from-behind variety.

Austin Romine plated the game-winning run with a two-out, tie-breaking RBI single in the fourth inning, but it was another masterful performance by Masahiro Tanaka that put the Yankees in position to end their post-break slump. Tanaka held the league’s most potent offense to just one run on three hits, striking out seven in six innings.

It’s hard to fathom where this team would be without Tanaka’s ace-like numbers this season:

  • He’s been consistently excellent at preventing runs: This was Tanaka’s 13th outing allowing two earned runs or fewer, tied with Chris Tillman and Aaron Sanchez for the most such starts among all AL pitchers this season.
  • He is at his best against the Yankees’ biggest rivals: Tanaka now has a 1.58 ERA in seven starts versus the AL East this season.
  • He is a streak-stopper: Tanaka improved to 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA in eight games following a Yankee loss this season.
  • He gives the team a chance to win every time: The Yankees are 14-5 in his starts and 31-41 when anyone else starts.

Tanaka’s been great.

Fan Confidence Poll: July 18th, 2016

Record Last Week: 1-2 (8 RS, 11 RA)
Season Record: 45-46 (379 RS, 416 RA, 41-50 pythag. record), 5.5 GB of postseason spot
Opponents This Week: vs. Orioles (four games, Mon. to Thurs.), vs. Giants (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 tab 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?

Yankees avoid sweep with 3-1 win over Red Sox

That was a nice end to an otherwise yucky series. The Yankees avoided a sweep at the hands of the Red Sox on Sunday night with a come-from-behind 3-1 win. The lineup scored just enough runs and the team’s four best pitchers made them stand up.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Master Tanaka
Masahiro Tanaka‘s night started ominously. Mookie Betts popped up a fat 2-2 pitch to lead off the game, then Dustin Pedroia whacked a hanging 2-1 slider over the left field wall for a quick 1-0 Red Sox lead. Two really bad pitches to the first two batters of the game. Tanaka got away with the first one, but not the second. All four batters in the first inning were able to get the ball airborne too. Not great!

That was all the BoSox would muster against the Yankees ace, however. Tanaka settled down beautifully and retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced en route to six innings of one-run ball. He could have gone another inning — Tanaka threw only 87 pitches — but when you’ve got a two-run lead and a rested Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, why not go to the bullpen? Giving the ball to those guys is never a bad idea.

Tanaka allowed that one run on three hits and a walk while striking out seven. Weirdly enough, he generated only eight swings and misses and two ground ball outs. That’s his sixth lowest swing-and-miss total of the season and lowest grounder total. Eh, whatever. It worked. Tanaka continues to be an ace with an extra rest this season. He was very good after that shaky start in the fifth inning.

A Bottom of the Order Rally
The Yankees may not be very good this year, but it still is pretty fun to watch them beat the guy the Red Sox signed for $217M this winter. David Price allowed six runs in each of his first two starts against the Yankees this season, and while he was better in this game (three runs in 5.2 innings), he blew a 1-0 lead because he couldn’t contain the bottom of the lineup.

The three-run fourth inning rally started with a one-out single by Didi Gregorius. Starlin Castro followed with what I thought was the best at-bat of the game, all things considered. Price got ahead of Castro 0-2 in the count, then couldn’t put him away. Starlin fouled off two 0-2 pitches, took another for a ball, then yanked a double into the left field corner to score Gregorius all the way from first to tie the score. Nice at-bat by Castro. (No, really.)

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Rob Refsnyder put up a tough eight-pitch at-bat of his own before striking out, though No. 9 hitter Austin Romine picked him up with a two-out single to center. Pedroia almost made a great diving catch, but the ball deflected off his glove and away from Jackie Bradley Jr. in center. If Pedroia doesn’t deflect it, Castro probably holds at third because Bradley’s arm is so good. Instead he scored to make to 2-1.

Back-to-back singles by Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury drove in the team’s third run. Ellsbury blooped a single to center and Bradley airmailed the throw home, otherwise he would have had Romine at the plate by a decent margin. The wrap-around 6-7-8-9-1-2 hitters went a combined 5-for-6 with a strikeout that inning to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead.

And Here Comes The Bullpen
Like I said earlier, Tanaka probably could have gone another inning, but there were a number of reasons to pull him. First and foremost, he’ll have to make his next start on normal rest, so it makes sense to get him out of the game a little earlier this usual. Secondly, Betances and Miller had not pitched since the All-Star Game on Tuesday, so they had reached “they need the work” territory.

Betances struck out one in a perfect seventh, Miller walked one and struck out one in a scoreless eighth, and Aroldis Chapman walked one in a scoreless ninth. He’s now 18-for-19 in save chances. Chapman faced David Ortiz for the first time ever and walked him on four pitches, which was pretty much the most anticlimactic outcome possible. Between Tanaka and the relievers the BoSox did not have a hit after the fifth inning.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Leftovers
The Yankees somehow managed to score in only one inning despite putting 13 men on base in eight offensive half-innings. They went 2-for-9 (.222) with runners in scoring position, which I guess explains it. At least somewhat. Gardner, Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Gregorius, and Castro each had two hits. Everyone in the starting lineup reached base at least once except Chase Headley.

Since moving to the leadoff spot six games ago, Gardner has gone 7-for-24 (.292) with a double, a triple, a homer, and three walks. That works out to a .357 OBP. Ellsbury has gone 5-for-26 (.192) with three walks (.276 OBP) as the No. 2 hitter during those six games, so I guess the lineup swap has half-worked?

And finally, the Yankees failed to score a run in the first inning for the 21st (!) straight game. That’s the longest such streak by any team this season, and the longest such streak by the Yankees since 1967. They went 22 straight without a first inning run that year. The Yankees led baseball in first inning runs last year, you know.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, then go to MLB.com for the video highlights. We also have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the ol’ win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Red Sox are leaving town and the Orioles are coming in. The Yanks and O’s begin a four-game series Monday night, when Ivan Nova and Kevin Gausman will be on the mound. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch that game, or any of the other six games on the homestand live.

DotF: Dermis Garcia homers again in Pulaski’s win

Got a bunch of notes to pass along:

  • Several minor promotions, per team announcements: OF Jeff Hendrix, RHP Andrew Schwaab, and RHP Jose Mesa Jr. have been bumped up from Low-A Charleston to High-A Tampa while RHP Anyelo Gomez, RHP Eduardo Rivera, and RHP Greg Weissert all go from various rookie ball clubs to Low-A Charleston.
  • Both RHP Brady Lail and RHP Matt Wotherspoon were demoted from Triple-A Scranton to Double-A Trenton, reports Shane Hennigan. Also, RHP Angel Rincon, RHP Joey Maher, LHP Jonny Drozd, and RHP Manolo Reyes were all released, the affiliates announced.
  • Carlos Beltran called SS Jorge Mateo soon after Mateo was suspended for violating team policy, writes Dan Martin. “I said, ‘You know what you did wrong and it’s up to you to fix it.’ Now, how do you fix it? You show them. You play hard. Get there early. Do your best and run balls out. Be a leader. That’s how you show the organization you’ll go the extra mile,” said Beltran.

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Gwinnett)

  • RF Ben Gamel: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 K — 27-for-74 (.365) during his 16-game hitting streak … this snaps a six-game multi-hit streak
  • LF Cesar Puello: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — threw a runner (Ronnie Mustelier!) at third
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K
  • CF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 K
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 5 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 3/3 GB/FB — 59 of 96 pitches were strikes (61%) … one of his worst starts of the season, which tells you how good he’s been
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — eleven pitches, nine strikes … 16/3 K/BB in his last 14.1 innings
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K — 14 of 30 pitches were strikes (47%)

[Read more…]

Game 91: A win is a loss and a loss is a win

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

Does anyone out there still believe the Yankees are good enough to get back into the postseason race? I’m not even talking about being good enough to actually get to the playoffs. I mean being good enough to play meaningful games in September. Everyone is saying the Yankees need to play better in the second half, and yet here they are, playing poorly and on the verge of being swept by the Red Sox at home. At this point of the season, a loss is a win and a win is a loss. Sell sell sell. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. 1B Rob Refsnyder
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Another hot and sunny one in New York today. The weather would be really great if it were, like, ten degrees cooler and 50% less humid. Tonight’s game starts at 8pm ET and you can watch on ESPN. Try to enjoy.

Injury Update: Mark Teixeira (foot) is heading for a CT scan even though an x-ray came back negative yesterday. He fouled a pitch off his foot yesterday. (Update: The CT scan came back negative and Teixeira is day-to-day.)

Report: Yanks, Pirates have discussed Nathan Eovaldi deal

(Tasos Katopodis/Getty)
(Tasos Katopodis/Getty)

According to Rob Biertempfel, the Yankees and Pirates have discussed a potential Nathan Eovaldi trade. It’s unclear how serious talks were or whether they’re still ongoing. Biertempfel says the Rangers have some interest in Eovaldi as well. Both Pittsburgh and Texas are contending and in need of rotation help.

Eovaldi, 26, started the season well but has crashed hard late, so hard that he was demoted to the bullpen before the All-Star break. (He’s going to return to the rotation Tuesday.) He has a 5.11 ERA (5.04 FIP) in 98.2 innings spread across 16 starts and three relief appearances. Eovaldi is under team control as an arbitration-eligible player for one more season before becoming a free agent. I have some thoughts on this.

1. This rumor passes the sniff test. Some trade rumors flat out don’t make sense. This is not one of them. This one makes sense. The Pirates and pitching coach Ray Searage have had success turning good stuff/bad command starters like Eovaldi into above-average pitchers the last few years. Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett are the most notable examples. They did it with Edinson Volquez too. (It didn’t work with Juan Nicasio this year.)

Also, the Yankees and Pirates are frequent trade partners. Brian Cashman and Pirates GM Neal Huntington have hooked up for four trades since 2012 (Burnett, Casey McGehee, Chris Stewart, Frankie Cervelli) and if nothing else, that indicates the two have a good working relationship. Between their recent trade history and the type of pitchers Pittsburgh tends to acquire, this rumor definitely has teeth. I’m buying this.

2. So what can the Yankees get in return? Even though he’s been traded twice himself, not many pitchers like Eovaldi have been traded within the last few years. I’m talking about an enigmatic 20-something a year and a half away from free agency. Eovaldi’s two prior trades don’t work as benchmarks because he had more years of team control. We’re stuck guessing at his trade value, which is unfortunate.

The Pirates have a loaded system — they landed six players on Baseball America’s midseason top 100 — and it should be noted it’s been a while since Huntington last traded anything more than a decent prospect. This isn’t a club that will go out and trade a big prospect package for a big name MLB player. Not that Eovaldi is a big name, but you know what I mean. If you’re hoping for a top prospect, forget it. Huntington’s track record says it ain’t happening.

Here is MLB.com’s top 30 Pirates prospects list. Down-list players who seem interesting include lefty Stephen Tarpley, infielder Kevin Kramer, righty Trevor Williams, and infielder Max Moroff. That’s just me pulling names off the list. The Pirates do have a lot of talent in their system though, so even if the top tier and second tier guys are off the table, there are still some nice prospects to be had.

(Joe Sargent/Getty)
(Joe Sargent/Getty)

3. The Niese factor scares me. One of the reasons the Pirates need rotation help now and next year is lefty Jon Niese, who came over from the Mets in the offseason and has had a brutal season (5.13 ERA and 5.49 FIP). Like Eovaldi, Niese was recently demoted to the bullpen and he’s said to be on the trade block. It’s easy to understand why, really.

The Yankees have reportedly had interest in Niese in the past, but things were never going to come together because of the Mets-Yankees factor. Would it happen now that he’s with the Pirates? Niese and a prospect for Eovaldi? Niese’s contract includes club options for 2017 ($10M) and 2018 ($11M), so he’d satisfy their stated goal of adding pitching controllable beyond next season.

Just to be clear, there’s nothing connected the Yankees to Niese now. This is just my speculation. They’ve had interest in Niese, he’s very much available, and he’s under control beyond 2017. This is a little too close for comfort. I guess as long as Niese is the second piece, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I’d rather see the Yankees focus on younger players, not veterans.

4. So, what about the Rangers? Biertempfel says the Rangers have interest in Eovaldi as well, and again, that passes the sniff test. They just welcomed Yu Darvish back from the DL, but are still without Derek Holland (shoulder) and Colby Lewis (lat), so they need rotation help. Texas also needs bullpen help in a big way, and the Yankees have some really good relievers to offer. I guess that means there’s potential for a larger deal here. Eovaldi and, say, Aroldis Chapman for something. That sorta thing.

Yankees drop second straight to Red Sox, lose 5-2


Source: FanGraphs

This was another one of those games where the Yankees were the inferior team on offense, on defense, and on the mound. What is this team good at, exactly? Besides protecting those occasional leads after six innings? I’m pretty sure the answer is nothing. Saturday’s loss to the Red Sox came with a 5-2 final. Let’s recap with bullet points since it’s Saturday night:

  • Sabathia Hit Hard Again: For the fifth straight start, CC Sabathia allowed 5+ runs Saturday. The Red Sox tagged him for five runs (four earned) in 5.1 to give him a 3.94 ERA on the season. Remember when he had a 2.20 ERA? Good times. Yes, Sabathia gave up an inordinate number of weak ground ball singles, but he also gave up a three-run moonshot to Sandy friggin’ Leon, and had more than one line drive hit right at an infielder. Sabathia’s renaissance earlier this season was awesome. It seems over now.
  • Two Token Runs: Solo homers by Brett Gardner and Chase Headley. That was the offense. The Yankees could only muster four hits and a walk against Eduardo Rodriguez, who came into the start with an 8.59 ERA. He threw 97 pitches and got four swings and misses total. A decent offense would have hammered him. The Yankees didn’t put up much of a fight.
  • Leftovers: Gardner went 2-for-3 with the homer and a walk. The rest of the Yankees went 3-for-28 with a homer and a walk … Anthony Swarzak threw 2.2 hitless innings. No, really … the Yankees sent 33 batters to the plate. Eleven saw no more than two pitches. Remember when the Yankees worked the count? … the Yankees were charged with two errors (Headley, Didi Gregorius) and it could have been more. Not the best afternoon in the field.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Here’s our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. The Yankees will look to avoid being swept by the Red Sox for the second time this season Sunday night, in the ESPN game. Those are the worst. Masahiro Tanaka and David Price are the scheduled starters.

Minor League Update: No DotF tonight. Sorry folks. I’ve had a busy weekend and I’m beat. DotF will be back to normal tomorrow. Here are the box scores and here’s the short version: Ben Gamel had two hits (again), Luis Cessa allowed two runs in six innings, Chance Adams struck out eight and allowed one hit in six innings, Luis Torrens had two hits, and Dermis Garcia mashed a tater. Oh, and the GCL Yanks West lost 10-0 and were no-hit. Their only baserunners were two hit batsmen. That feels like something that would happen to the big league team this year.