The Marginalization of Adam Warren


Six weeks ago the Yankees took Adam Warren out of the rotation and demoted him to the bullpen for reasons that were unspoken but also crystal clear. Ivan Nova had returned from Tommy John surgery and the team wasn’t prepared to remove CC Sabathia from the rotation because of his contract, so to the ‘pen Warren went. He was the low man on the totem pole.

At the time Warren had a 3.59 ERA (4.14 FIP) in 14 starts and was trending in a positive direction, with a 2.96 ERA (4.07 FIP) and an average of 6.1 innings per start in his final eight starts. He seemed to be getting comfortable as a big league starter, but the Yankees said they needed another reliable right-handed reliever, and Warren was bumped from the starting five.

Warren had quite a bit of success as a reliever the last two years, first as a long man in 2013 and then as a short reliever in 2014, so while removing him from the rotation stunk, the move figured to improve the bullpen. Andrew Miller was on the DL at the time and the Yankees were searching for a reliable righty to pair with Dellin BetancesDavid Carpenter was out of favor by this point — and Warren seemed perfect for the job.

Instead, Warren has become something of a low-leverage multi-inning reliever, the guy who comes in to soak up some innings when a starter does the five-and-fly thing. Since being moved to the bullpen, Warren’s average leverage index when entering the game is 0.63. 0.63! Esmil Rogers was the epitome of a low-leverage mop-up man and he had a 0.67 LI with the Yankees this year. A 0.63 LI would rank 132nd among the 138 qualified relievers in MLB. (A LI of 1.0 is average. The smaller the LI, the less important the situation.)

Instead of being that second righty setup man we all kinda assumed he would be when he was moved back to the bullpen, Warren’s instead been a mop-up man. Not a guy who moves the needle, and things have been especially egregious of late. Here is the score situation for the Yankees when Warren entered his last six games:

sixth inning down four
seventh inning up 14
sixth inning up ten
sixth inning down two
sixth inning down four
seventh inning down two

I’d be more than happy with Warren pitching in a bunch of games the Yankees were leading by double digits if it happened more often, but that’s not realistic. When Warren entered those games with the Yankees down two, the LI was 0.59 and 0.52. His average LI entering those six games was 0.32. A two-run deficit in the sixth or seventh innings is hardly insurmountable, especially with New York’s generally awesome offense, but in a vacuum it is considered low-leverage work.

Now here’s the thing: Warren’s recent usage is more a result of the game situations and availability than managerial blunders. Yes, Warren absolutely should have faced Justin Smoak with the bases loaded Saturday (this isn’t second guessing, it was clear Nova was out of gas when he was left in to face Smoak), but otherwise there haven’t been any missed opportunities to get him high-leverage work, so to speak. The Yankees scored a ton of runs for a two-week stretch recently and there weren’t many chances to get Warren more important innings.

Me too, Adam. Me too. (Presswire)
Me too, Adam. Me too. (Presswire)

Warren’s ability to throw multiple innings and the starting staff’s inability to pitch deep into games is working against him. The starter is out after five innings, Joe Girardi goes to Warren for two or three innings, and boom, he’s suddenly unavailable for two or three days. For example, had he not been needed for 41 pitches following Luis Severino‘s five-inning start on Wednesday, Warren likely would have pitched in extra innings Friday, not Branden Pinder.

Perhaps the best course of action going forward is forgetting about Warren’s ability to go multiple innings and treating him as a true one (or occasionally two) inning reliever, allowing him to be available for more games and more high-leverage situations. Maybe this weekend was a sign that’s happening. He faced two batters Saturday then three batters Sunday. (Yes, I know Warren loaded the bases with no outs yesterday. No, I don’t think that means he is not worthy of high-leverage innings. It’s one game.)

Treating Warren as a one inning guy would require having another viable long reliever in the bullpen, at least until rosters expand in three weeks. Bryan Mitchell could be that guy, he is stretched out to 70 or so pitches, though it seems like the Yankees are planning to give him a spot start sometime in the near future to rest the rest of the rotation. That makes Mitchell less of a long relief option. I’m sure they could figure out a way to make it work though. Also, I’m not saying making Warren a one inning guy is definitely the right move. Just throwing it out there as an idea.

Either way, Warren has been reduced from effective starting pitcher to low-leverage mop-up man these last few weeks for more than a few reasons, including the team’s decision to keep running Sabathia out there every fifth day. Warren’s been a wasted asset of late. He’s a good pitcher — a good pitcher versatile enough to pitch in many situations — yet he hasn’t been put in position to provide the team with any sort of impact since being demoted back to relief.

Yankeemetrics: The Bronx is burning? (August 7-9)

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Offense optional
So what happens when the two highest-scoring teams in the majors get together for a game at Yankee Stadium … of course, the final score would be 2-1.

And what happens when the Yankees have Nate Eovaldi on the mound, who entered the game with the second-highest run support average and tied for the highest win percentage among qualified starters … of course, the Yankees would score just one run and lose the game.

Or what happens when the Yankees face the team with the second-worst record in one-run games this season … of course, they’d get beat by the the score of 2-1 against the Blue Jays, who entered the weekend 11-23 in games decided by one run.

Mark Teixeira drove in the Yankees’ only run with a solo homer in the second inning, his 30th home run of the season. It’s the ninth time he’s reached that milestone, matching Mickey Mantle for the most 30-homer seasons all-time by a switch-hitter.

In the words of the philosopher-manager Joe Girardi, “it’s not what you want.” Nope, Joe, scoring zero runs against a team that is chasing you in the division race is not exactly what you want.

The Yankees were blanked on Saturday afternoon, 6-0, and had just three singles the entire game. It was the first time they been shut out by the Blue Jays at home and held to three hits or fewer, with no extra-base hits, since April 10, 1989. The Yankees were one-hit by Dave Stieb in a 8-0 loss that day.

Justin Smoak broke a scoreless tie in the sixth inning with a grand slam, the first time ever that a Blue Jay had hit a homer with the bases loaded at Yankee Stadium (old or new). The last Blue Jay to hit a grand slam against the Yankees was Tony Fernandez off Ted Lilly on Sept. 4, 2001 at the SkyDome.

Panic city?
So remember when the Yankees had scored 90 runs in a 10-game span and the offense seemed unstoppable? Yeah, me neither. The Yankees were shut out for a second straight day on Sunday afternoon, 2-0, and were swept by the Blue Jays in a series of at least three games for the first time since May 22-25, 2003.

It also marked the first time the Yankees had been blanked in back-to-back games by any team since May 12-13, 1999 against the Angels — snapping their major-league-record streak of 2,665 games without consecutive shutouts.

They were held to three singles for the second straight game, too, the first time they’ve had threw or fewer hits and none for extra bases in back-to-back games at either version of Yankee Stadium. The last time they did that in consecutive home games was September 1919 at the Polo Grounds.

The not-Bronx Bombers have now scored no more than two runs in each of their last five home games, their longest such streak at Yankee Stadium since April 17-May 2, 1969. In those five games they’ve totaled just four runs, their worst five-game scoring stretch since August 1973 on a west coast trip against the Angels and A’s.

And it gets even uglier … this is the first time in franchise history they’ve scored four or fewer runs combined in a five-game span, with all those games coming at Yankee Stadium (old or new). The last time that happened to them in a five-game stretch at home was September 1908, when they played at Hilltop Park. They finished the 1908 season 51-103, the second-worst win percentage in a season in franchise history.

Fan Confidence Poll: August 10th, 2015

Record Last Week: 2-4 (17 RS, 16 RA)
Season Record: 61-49 (529 RS, 468 RA, 62-48 pythag. record) 1.5 games up in ALE
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, @ Indians (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), @ Blue Jays (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?

DotF: Gamel and Sanchez lead Scranton to blowout win

RHP Chance Adams, this year’s fifth round pick, has been promoted to High-A Tampa, the team announced. The righty reliever out of Dallas Baptist has a 2.11 ERA (1.74 FIP) with 29 strikeouts and seven walks in 21.1 innings with Short Season Staten Island and Low-A Charleston this year. Is Adams on the fast track? Yes. Yes he is.

Triple-A Scranton (9-1 win over Toledo)

  • LF Ben Gamel: 3-5, 3 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB — threw a runner out at third … 24-for-58 (.414) with two doubles, five triples, and two homers in his last 15 games … can’t help but wonder if Gamel’s breakout is the result of the new development practices (whatever the hell they may be) put in play by new farm system head Gary Denbo, because before this season he was the definition of a fringe prospect
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-2, 3 R, 3 BB
  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-2, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 HBP — believe it or not, that’s only his second walk in his last 14 games
  • DH Gary Sanchez: 3-4, 2 2B, 3 RBI — 23-for-59 (.390) with five doubles and three homers in his last 16 games
  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 1-4, 1 R, 2 K, 1 E (fielding)
  • 3B Jose Pirela: 3-4, 1 R, 1 RBI
  • C Austin Romine: 0-4, 1 K
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 3/5 GB/FB — 59 of 99 pitches were strikes (60%)
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 21 of 33 pitches were strikes (64%)

[Read more…]

Sunday Night Open Thread

This is your open thread for the remainder of the weekend. The ESPN Sunday Night game is a good one, the Dodgers at the Pirates (Wood vs. Morton). That could be an, ahem, postseason preview. Haven’t used that phrase for a while around here. Talk about that game, this afternoon’s loss, or whatever else is on your mind right here.

Swept: Yankees shut out for second straight game, lose 2-0 to Blue Jays

That was as bad as it gets. The red hot Blue Jays walked into Yankee Stadium and swept the Yankees in a three-game series for the first time since 2003, shutting them out for the second straight day Sunday. The final score was 2-0. Yuck.

This sums up the offense well. (Presswire)
This sums up the offense well. (Presswire)

Rock Bottom
The good news is the offense has nowhere to go but up, right? They scored one run in the three games — on a cheap Yankee Stadium home run, no less — and did not score a run in their final 28 innings of the series. They were held to three singles for the second straight day Sunday afternoon. Carlos Beltran, Chase Headley, and Didi Gregorius had the hits, none of which were particularly well-struck. Their two hardest hit balls went for outs: Mark Teixeira lined into the shift and Gregorius lined a ball at third baseman Josh Donaldson.

The Yankees were able to bunch a few base-runners together Sunday and did have some chances to score, but they couldn’t capitalize. Marco Estrada walked two batters (Teixeira and Brian McCann) with one out in the fourth, then Beltran banged into a tailor made 4-6-3 double play. Beltran walked and Headley singled with one out in the seventh, but Didi lined the ball at Donaldson and Stephen Drew struck out. It was Drew’s 325th plate appearance of the season. He’ll turn it around any day now. You watch. *farts*

Offensive slumps happen, I’ve watched enough baseball to know that, but this one is particularly ugly and ill-timed. The Blue Jays have a better roster than the Yankees at this point, at least on paper, and they outplayed the Yankees in every phase of the game this series. Offense, pitching, defense, the whole nine. They even outmanaged ’em. Brutal series. There’s no sugarcoating it. Dreadful. The only positive is that no one got injured.


Two Taters
Masahiro Tanaka‘s scary home run problem continued Sunday afternoon, though he limited it to two solo homers this game, both by pretty great hitters. I mean, Donaldson and Jose Bautista are going to mash taters. What can you do? Aside from the two home runs — the 15th and 16th homers Tanaka has allowed in his last eleven starts — Tanaka was pretty excellent, allowing just one other hit in six innings. He struck out five and walked zero.

Tanaka’s afternoon was pretty short. Joe Girardi opted to pull him after only 80 pitches because he was starting on regular rest for the first time since coming off the DL back in early-June. He’d made every other start since then with at least one extra day of rest. The Yankees have gone to great lengths to try to keep Tanaka healthy this season, and it appears limiting him to 80 pitches when on regular rest is part of the plan. I have no opinion on this. It is what it is. *shrugs shoulders*


Scoreless Relief
For the first time all season, Adam Warren came out of the bullpen to pitch back-to-back days. He promptly loaded the bases with no outs. Bautista almost took his head off with a line drive, Dioner Navarro walked after taking some borderline pitches, then Chris Colabello took a pitch to the hand. Not ideal! Girardi pulled Warren and went to Justin Wilson, which was both his best option — like it or not, Dellin Betances is not coming in with no outs in the seventh — and risky because Wilson is prone to losing the strike zone.

Staying true to form, Wilson pumped fastball after fastball after fastball. The velocities of his eleven pitches: 96, 96, 98, 96, 96, 96, 95, 94, 96, 96, 97. Wilson struck out Justin Smoak and Cliff Pennington, then got Kevin Pillar to fly out weakly to shallow right field to strand all three runners. That was huge. Uuuuge. The offense didn’t take advantage and get back in the game because they’re jerks, but man, that was some effort by Wilson. He was the unsung hero in a game with no hero.

Wilson started the eighth, got Ben Revere to ground out, then Girardi doubled down on Branden Pinder against the top of the lineup following Friday’s loss. Pinder walked Troy Tulowitzki then allowed a single to Donaldson, so things were heading for trouble. Pinder rebounded to strike out Bautista before Chasen Shreve coaxed an inning-ending ground out from Navarro. Shreve tossed a scoreless ninth as well. The pitching staff held the highest scoring team in baseball to ten runs in three games. And the Yankees were swept. I hate everything.

He can climb walls, but can he still hit? (Presswire)
He can climb walls, but can he still hit? (Presswire)

The top five hitters in the lineup went a combined 0-for-17 and hit two balls out of the infield. Jacoby Ellsbury continued his slump with an 0-for-4 and is now in a 0-for-12 rut since the game-winning homer Thursday. He’s been a non-factor since coming off the DL and is down to a 96 wRC+ on the season. Brian McCann, who has quietly done little at the plate the last five weeks, went 0-for-3.

The Yankees had not been shut out in two consecutive games for a record 2,666 games before this weekend. Bad news: they’re not going to score tomorrow either. (It’s an off-day.) Their last set of back-to-back shutouts were in May 1999. The last time before that was in 1996. At least those seasons had happy endings, right?

And finally, the idiot fan who threw Bautista’s home run ball back hit Brett Gardner in the head with the throw. Brett was fine and I’m sure the fan didn’t mean it, but still. Throwing the ball back is dumb. Give it to a kid if you don’t want it.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights for Sunday afternoon’s game. Here are the updated standings and postseason odds for the season. The Yankees went from having a 69.1% chance of winning the AL East prior to Friday’s game to a 53.5% chance following Sunday’s game. Here are the Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, and here’s the loss probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This Yankees have an off-day Monday before opening a 16 games in 16 days stretch in Cleveland on Tuesday night. Luis Severino will be making his second career big league start in the series opener against the Indians. Carlos Carrasco will be his opposite number. Runs are optional.

Game 110: Runs Required


The Yankees have scored four (4) runs in their last four (4) games. We can bitch and moan for hours about bullpen usage and all that, but ultimately it hasn’t really mattered because the Yankees aren’t scoring at all. It happens! Offenses slump. But, you know, it is annoying. And it’s costing them games in the standings.

So today’s secondary goal is score a bunch of a run. The primary goal is not getting swept by a Blue Jays team that sure looks like a powerhouse now that they have the pitching to match the hitting. I don’t care if the Yankees win 1-0 or 24-22 this afternoon. Just win. Can’t get swept at home by the Blue Jays. That would be Very Bad. Here is Toronto’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. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It’s a lovely day for baseball in the Bronx. A little cloudy but the sky is blue, the sun is shining, and it’s not overwhelmingly hot. Good afternoon to spend at the ol’ ball yard. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Try to enjoy.

Rotation Update: The Yankees have 16 games in 16 days starting Tuesday and Joe Girardi said they will likely insert a spot sixth starter at some point to give everyone in the rotation extra rest. My guess is Bryan Mitchell would make that start unless all hell breaks loose and he’s needed in long relief a few times. We’ll see.