The Yankees are offering free tickets to anyone who attended last night’s Mariano Rivera bobblehead giveaway following the voucher/long line fiasco. You can get a free ticket to any home game next season except Opening Day and Old Timers’ Day. All of the info is here. There’s also info in there about redeeming your voucher if you never bothered to pick up the bobblehead. Good job by the Yankees, though I’m not sure inviting people to see the 2014 team is much of a reward (zing!). · (12) ·
One loss. That’s all it will take for the Yankees to be officially eliminated from the postseason. One win by the Indians would do the trick as well, but let’s ignore that for a second. The Yankees need to go a perfect 5-0 in their final five games to have a chance, and you know what? Wins haven’t exactly been easy to come by of late. New York has lost seven of their last ten games, including three of six games against the lowly Blue Jays and Giants. How about winning just one game before worrying about winning five? Can they do that? Maybe put up a fight for a full nine innings? That would be nice. Here’s the lineup that will face left-hander David Price:
- 3B Eduardo Nunez
- DH Alex Rodriguez
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Alfonso Soriano
- RF Vernon Wells
- 1B Mark Reynolds
- CF Curtis Granderson
- SS Brendan Ryan
- C Chris Stewart
And on the mound is right-hander Phil Hughes, who is almost certainly making his final start as a Yankee. Remember when he was the best pitching prospect in baseball back in 2006? Neither do I.
Lovely weather in New York today and they won’t have any trouble getting the game in tonight. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and ESPN nationally.
Wednesday: The Yankees have indeed activated Hafner, the team announced. Sabathia was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot.
Tuesday: Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees are planning to activate Travis Hafner off the 60-day DL on Wednesday. They’ll have to make a 40-man roster move to accommodate him, but that won’t be an issue. CC Sabathia is a 60-day DL candidate thanks to his hamstring injury.
Hafner, 36, hasn’t played since late-July because of a shoulder injury. He hit .205/.300/.384 (86 wRC+) with 12 homers in 293 plate appearances before getting hurt. It’s an inconsequential move in the grand scheme of things, but teams can’t just leave a healthy player on the DL indefinitely. Welcome back, Pronk. Make yourself useful these last five games. · (22) ·
CC Sabathia‘s season came to unceremonious and positively 2013 Yankees-esque end earlier this week when the team announced he had a Grade II left hamstring strain. He supposedly suffered the injury in the second inning of his start last Friday, but he pitched through it and still held the Giants to one run in seven innings. That is pretty damn remarkable when you think about it.
Even though he eclipsed the 200-inning plateau for the seventh straight season — only Sabathia, Mark Buehrle, Jamie Shields, and Justin Verlander can make that claim — Sabathia had the very worst season of his 12-year-old career in 2013. He posted a 4.78 ERA (4.09 FIP) in 211 innings across 32 starts, and according to runs allowed-based value metrics like bWAR (0.3) and RA9 (0.7), he was damn near replacement level. If you prefer FIP-based value, he was still at a career-low 2.7 fWAR. There’s no getting around it, CC was huge disappointment.
“It was a bad year,” admitted Sabathia to Fred Kerber yesterday. “It is frustrating and it’s tough. You feel like you let your teammates down. Everybody knows how much I care about winning and wanting to be there for the guys. Not to be able to be there this last week is going to be tough.”
There are a million possible reasons why Sabathia’s performance declined so much in one year. The workload caught up to him. The offseason elbow surgery had a bigger impact than expected. His fastball lost too much velocity. His fastball lost too much velocity and that made his changeup worse. He lost too much weight. Who knows the real answer? It’s probably all of the above to some degree. At his age, it’s hard to believe CC can get back to being the guy he was just last season, nevermind 2009-2011.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to be that same guy again,” added Sabathia. “I am 33 this year. Pitching [Friday] I felt back to myself, more so than any other start. It wasn’t velocity because I was 90-93, but just pitching inside, being aggressive, throwing fastballs in hitters’ counts — just going out there and being a bully.”
Now, just because Sabathia is unlikely to turn back into the 2009-2011 version of himself doesn’t mean he can’t be effective. He just has to go about being effective in a different way. CC will have to adjust the way he pitches and, just as importantly, adjust the way he prepares for starts. The days of dominating hitters with a fastball/slider/changeup mix on the quality of the individual pitches alone are over.
“I’ve always been a guy that never watched video,” said Sabathia. “That’s something that I need to change. Just my preparation for games probably has to get a little better … Me and [pitching coach Larry Rothschild] did a lot of work lately that got me back on the right track and I felt like we were headed in the right direction and stuff was going better and [the hamstring] happens.”
I always find it amazing whenever I hear about a veteran player not watching video. It’s not unheard of, but it is rare. Most players obsess over mechanics or scouting reports or whatever, others prefer to keep it simple and leave it to the coaching staff. Considering how effective Sabathia was over such a long period of time, we can’t say the “no video” approach didn’t work for him. It obviously did.
That probably isn’t the case anymore though. At this point of his career, with a diminished fastball and command that seems to come and go, Sabathia will have to put in more preparation time between starts. This isn’t so much about watching video and dissecting his mechanics, it’s about learning hitters’ weakness and developing a personalized scouting report. A lot of guys will watch how similar pitchers attack hitters — when I interviewed Al Leiter last year, he said he watched video of Andy Pettitte and David Wells to see how they approached certain hitters — and use that as a building block.
Sabathia’s stuff is what it is at this point. He averaged 91.3 mph with his fastball this summer — less earlier in the season, more later in the season — and that is plenty good enough for a left-hander with three (really four since he throws both a four-seam fastball and a sinker) pitches. He’s got the slider for lefties and the changeup for righties. The stuff is fine, it’s just not what it once was. Sabathia is going to have to adjust his preparation and between-starts routine as much as anything if he wants to bounce back and return to being an effective pitcher next year, something he is confident he can do.
“I’ll be back to myself,” said CC. “I know a lot of people have written me off and said I’ve thrown too many innings and whatever, but I’ll still be here and still be accountable and still be the guy that signed up in 2009.”
Via Ben Badler (subs. req’d): The Yankees may give second round pick Gosuke Katoh some time at shortstop in the future. “I did hear some rumblings about possibly giving him some time at shortstop, but my money’s on second base,” wrote Badler, who ranked the infielder as the 15th best prospect in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League yesterday.
Katoh, an 18-year-old high school second baseman out of Southern California, signed for a straight slot $845,700 bonus as the 66th overall in this June’s draft. He hit .310/.402/.522 (172 wRC+) with a GCL-leading six homers in 215 plate appearances after signing. “Katoh’s an excellent athlete with good range, smooth actions and clean hands. He’s a quality defensive second baseman, but his below-average arm prevents him from playing shortstop, though he does have a quick release,” wrote Badler in yesterday’s subscriber-only write-up. If the Yankees are going to give Katoh a try at short — and there’s no reason not to, really — this is the time to do it. Nice and early in his career. · (27) ·
When the Yankees’ season comes to an inevitable end following Sunday’s game against the Astros, Alex Rodriguez‘s appeal will finally begin. The process is set to begin on Monday and is expected to last several sessions. A-Rod‘s legal team, MLB officials, and arbitrator Frederic Horowitz held preliminary meetings earlier this month, but Monday marks the official start of the appeal.
According to union head Michael Weiner and various reports, it’s possible a ruling may not come until November or December. That would be bad. The Yankees want to know what’s going on with their third baseman as soon as possible so they can plan their offseason accordingly. They don’t have to pay Rodriguez during his suspension, so they’d save a considerable amount of money and would have to decide where (or if, I suppose) they’ll spend it. The non-tender deadline is in late-November and the Winter Meetings are in early-December, and you can be sure the team would like a resolution before then.
Horowitz can do one of three things. He can uphold the original 211-game suspension, overturn it completely, or reduce the number of games to whatever he decides. This isn’t an either/or thing. Based on the mountains of evidence MLB claims to have against A-Rod, it’s widely believed he’ll end up serving some kind of suspension. We just don’t know what. The standard ban for first-time offenders — which Alex is — is 50 games, so his legal team will probably argue the extra 161 games are an excessive punishment for allegedly impeding the investigation. There’s no collective-bargained document that deals with that kind of stuff, so MLB pulled that “161 games” number out of thin air.
As far as the Yankees are concerned, there is a best and worst case scenario for A-Rod’s suspension. That goes beyond planning their offseason, I’m talking about on-field impact in 2014 and beyond. Even if the hearing is held on Monday and they get a ruling on Tuesday, it could still be bad for the Yankees. Let’s break down the various scenarios.
Best Case Scenario: 162-Game Suspension (or more)
The Yankees have made it very clear they don’t like Rodriguez and want him gone. Can’t tarnish that otherwise pristine New York Yankees legacy, after all. A suspension that causes Alex to miss the entire 2014 season would effectively end his career. He’s had a hard enough time staying on the field due to various injuries in recent years, and even though he’s shown these last few weeks that he can still be an effective player, it’s hard to imagine any player returning at from a year-long hiatus on the cusp of their 40th birthday and being effective. Well, any player other than Andy Pettitte, I suppose.
If A-Rod is banned for all of next season, the Yankees will save his $25M salary and boy would that go a long way towards helping them get under the $189M luxury tax threshold. They would also know they need to find an everyday third baseman for 2014, not a short-term stopgap. There would still be three years and $61M left on Rodriguez’s contract after he returns in 2015, making a buyout much easier to swallow from the team’s point of view. That’s a lot of money to eat, but it’s pretty much a sunk cost already. A-Rod isn’t marketable and his on-field value is dwindling. Knowing he’ll miss all of next year is the best thing that could happen to the team.
Okay Case Scenario: 50-Game Suspension (or less)
It won’t be less, but I’ll throw the qualifier in there anyway. Horowitz could decide Rodriguez deserves the same 50-game ban as every other first time offender and nothing more, which means he would return to the team sometime in late-May. The Yankees would save approximately $7.72M in salary, but that would be almost completely negated when he hits the six homers needed to trigger the first $6M milestone bonus in his contract. Minimal savings.
The team wouldn’t be rid of Rodriguez, but they would be getting him back early enough in the season that he could have a meaningful impact. The suspension is a fixed number of games, so the Yankees would know exactly when he’d be returning. There’s no setback during a suspension. They could dig up a short-term third baseman without having to break the bank and then move forward with a regular lineup when A-Rod returns. Yeah, they wouldn’t save much money against the luxury tax threshold, but some savings are better than no savings.
Worst Case Scenario: 100-Game Suspension
Since no one thinks Horowitz will completely overturn the suspension — it’s certainly possible, but it would be a huge surprise — the worst case scenario for the Yankees would be a ban somewhere in the middle of 50 games and 162+ games. A hundred games is a nice round number and has been rumored as a possibility. A 150-game ban has been rumored as well, but for all intents and purposes that would be the same as a 162 (or more) game suspension.
If Rodriguez gets 100 games, the team would save about $15.44M in salary less the inevitable $6M homer bonus. I think we can all agree $9.5M or so is a nice chunk of change, but the team would also have to look for another permanent third baseman. Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez can’t hold down the hot corner for another 100 games like they did this year. We’ve seen that movie, we know how it ends. At the same time, the Yankees would also have to plan for A-Rod’s return, either at the hot corner or at DH (which figures to belong to Derek Jeter). Sixty-two games isn’t much time to make a significant impact on the team’s playoff chances either. With a 100-game ban, the team gets a nice amount of savings but the combined headache of a) having to find a third baseman, b) waiting for Alex to return, and c) not having him return into time to do anything meaningful.
* * *
The Yankees have a lot of questions to answer this offseason. More than any other offseason in recent memory, by frickin’ far. The A-Rod situation might be the most problematic because it’s completely out of their hands. They’re at the whim of the appeals process. The team doesn’t know how long they will be without their third baseman or how much money they’ll save. That’s no way to go into an offseason, but it’s the approach New York will have to take. Unless ownership decides to scrap the plan to get under the luxury tax threshold next season (lol), their offseason will be held hostage until Rodriguez’s fate is decided.
Tuesday night’s Mariano Rivera bobblehead fiasco was perfectly symbolic of this current soon-to-be-officially-eliminated Yankees team. Something went wrong and the organization was completely unprepared for it, so they slapped together a quick fix devoid of any real planning and hoped for the best. The Yankees in a nutshell.
I spent the fourth through ninth innings in line for the bobblehead — after waiting about an hour to get in the door in the first place — so I can’t really talk about the game all that much. I did see Hiroki Kuroda get knocked around in the first inning (again), and, from what I understand, a bunch of guys hitting in the middle of New York’s lineup after being released by real contenders because they weren’t good enough made outs in big spots with men on base. The Yankees in a nutshell.
The bobblehead thing was a complete disaster. Apparently the truck carrying the bobbleheads to Yankee Stadium broke down, so they had to hand people vouchers when they walked through the door. Then, in about the second inning, they announced the bobbleheads could be picked up at Gate Two. One location for 18k bobbleheads. I got on line near the Lobel’s stand in right field and it snaked all the way up the ramp, around the grandstand, then back down the ramp. We were on line for more than two hours.
The staffers directing traffic weren’t much help and were rude more often than not. I heard more than a few of them tell people they were welcome to cancel their season tickets if they were unhappy. Great sales pitch, eh? At least attendance didn’t drop this year or anything. The Yankees didn’t make an announcement about giving people free tickets or anything after they missed the game waiting on line and I don’t expect them to. Customer service has never been their strong suit.
Anyway, go to MLB.com for the box score and highlights. One more Yankees loss or one more Indians win will officially eliminate the Bombers from postseason contention, so expect it to happen soon. Phil Hughes will make what is almost certainly his final start as a Yankee on Wednesday night. David Price will be on the bump for the Rays.
This series with the Rays could have been a lot more meaningful had the Yankees not gone into their recent tailspin. They’ve lost six of their last nine and ten of their last 17 games, which simply wasn’t good enough in the ultra-competitive AL wildcard race. There were too many other good teams in the hunt and they’ve buried New York.
So, instead of this series being about pushing the Rays and trying to claim a postseason spot, the Yankees are basically playing spoiler. Competing because they’re professionals and have pride. These are the only three home games left in Mariano Rivera‘s career and that, to me, is the story of the series. I’ll be at the game tonight collecting my Mo
bobblehead voucher, but as much I as I want that sucker sitting on my desk, I’ll happily trade it to see Rivera pitch live for what will likely be the final time in my life. That really freaking sucks. Geez.
Anyway, here is the lineup that will face lefty Matt Moore:
- CF Ichiro Suzuki
- DH Alex Rodriguez
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Alfonso Soriano
- 1B Mark Reynolds
- 3B Eduardo Nunez
- RF Vernon Wells
- SS Brendan Ryan
- C Chris Stewart
And on the mound is right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. He’s got a 5.33 ERA (3.99 FIP) in his last eight starts and opponents are hitting .300/.347/.510 against him during that time. Kuroda, who was a legitimate Cy Young candidate as recently as mid-August, has turned each of the last 217 batters he’s faced into something resembling 2011 Cano (.302/.349/.522). Good grief.
It’s chilly but an otherwise clear night in New York. There’s no threat of rain or anything like that. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and can be seen on My9. Enjoy.
As expected, Phil Hughes will start tomorrow in place of the injured CC Sabathia. It’s unclear if Hughes and David Huff will work in tandem as usual, or if they’ll be split up. I guess it depends on whether or not he’s needed in relief. The Yankees need to come up with a starter for Saturday unless they plan on throwing Hiroki Kuroda on short rest. Brett Marshall and Adam Warren could be options for that game. · (5) ·
This had the potential to be a huge, season-defining series. Instead, the Yankees have lost six of their last nine games and are holding onto a microscopic chance — 0.3% according to Baseball Prospectus — of making the postseason. Their tragic number is three
meaning they could be eliminated this series even if they sweep.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays just buried the Orioles by sweeping a four-game series in Tampa. That series included two walk-off wins, one of which came in the 18th inning. Tampa has won nine of their last 12 games and is 87-69 with a +42 run differential. They are two games up on a wildcard spot and five games up on New York.
At 4.3 runs per game with a team 108 wRC+, the Rays have their best offensive team in a few years now. The days of scratching across a few runs and relying on the pitching are over, for at least one year. OF Desmond Jennings (111 wRC+) is nursing a minor hamstring injury and may sit out a few games as a precaution. Other than that, Tampa’s healthy.
As usual, manager Joe Maddon’s lineup revolves around 3B Evan Longoria (128 wRC+). 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (114 wRC+) always seems to punish the Yankees and OF Wil Myers (131 wRC+) has proven to be a tough out in his relatively young big league career. OF Matt Joyce (115 wRC+) and 1B James Loney (116 wRC+) have both been productive this year while 2B/OF Kelly Johnson (104 wRC+), OF David DeJesus (100 wRC+), DH Luke Scott (108 wRC+), and SS Yunel Escobar (101 wRC+) have been closer to average.
The Joses — Lobaton (109 wRC+) and Molina (76 wRC+) — split catching duties while OF Delmon Young (93 wRC+) and UTIL Sean Rodriguez (106 wRC+) will see time against lefties off the bench. OF Sam Fuld (52 wRC+) is more of a defensive replacement than anything. Maddon’s bench also includes C Chris Gimenez, IF Tim Beckham, and OF Freddy Guzman thanks to September call-ups. Remember Guzman? He was on the Yankees playoff roster in 2009 as a pinch-running specialist. Only appeared in two games though, both in the ALCS against the Angels.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Matt Moore
You’d never know it based on win-loss record and ERA, but the 24-year-old Moore has pitched almost exactly the same this year as he did during his rookie season last year. Here, look:
|Strikeout Rate||8.88 K/9 (23.1 K%)||8.68 K/9 (22.8 K%)|
|Walk Rate||4.11 BB/9 (10.7 BB%)||4.31 BB/9 (11.3 BB%)|
|Homer Rate||0.91 HR/9 (8.6% HR/FB)||0.90 HR/9 (8.8% HR/FB)|
|Ground Ball Rate||37.4%||39.1%|
The rate stats are essentially identical. Kinda neat. Also goes to show how much a 36-point drop in BABIP can help a pitcher’s record and his ERA. Anyway, Moore has seen his fastball velocity drop off this year, but he still sits comfortably around 92-93 mph with his two and four-seamers. His low-80s slurve — it’s more slider than curve at this point — and low-80s changeup are both legit put-away pitches. The Yankees have seen Moore a whole bunch of times since he broke into the league in late-2011, including four times this year. The good news is that each of those four starts has gotten progressively worse: one run in eight innings in April, one run in six innings in May, three runs in six innings in June, and five runs in five innings July. Would be cool if that trend continued.
Wednesday: TBA vs. LHP David Price
A triceps problem earlier this year really hampered the 28-year-old Price, but he’s been excellent the last three months and has a 3.43 ERA (3.07 FIP) in 25 starts overall. Both his strikeout (7.33 K/9 and 20.4 K%) and ground ball (45.0%) rates have taken big step downs this year, but his walk rate is a career-low (1.37 BB/9 and 3.8 BB%) and his homer rate is in line with his career norms (0.79 HR/9 and 8.8% HR/FB). Price is still the same fastball-heavy guy he’s always been, using mid-to-high-90s two and four-seamers as well as an upper-80s cutter approximately 70% of the time combined. He’ll backdoor that cutter to righties for called strikes and there’s nothing they can do about it. Unhittable pitch. A mid-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball round out his arsenal. The Yankees and Price have seen plenty of each other over the years, so there are no surprises.
Thursday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Alex Cobb
Cobb, 25, is in the process of emerging as the next great homegrown Rays ace. He’s got a 2.90 ERA (3.39 FIP) in 21 starts while missing a whole bunch of time after taking a line drive to the head. You probably remember that. Scary stuff. The combination of his strikeout (8.58 K/9 and 23.5 K%), walk (2.84 BB/9 and 7.8 BB%), and ground ball (56.0%) rates is elite, and he’s pretty good at keeping the ball in the park too (0.86 HR/9 and 15.9% HR/FB). Cobb is a changeup master, using low-90s two and four-seamers to setup his fading mid-80s put-away pitch. He’ll also throw an upper-70s curveball that can be absolutely filthy when it’s on. That pitch has really helped him this summer. Cobb has faced the Yankees a few times since breaking into the league three years ago and he tends to pitch very well against them — they’ve scored four runs in 22.1 innings against him this season (1.61 ERA).
Maddon had to really work his sore relievers hard during the Orioles series, and not just because of the 18-inning game. Closer RHP Fernando Rodney (2.85 FIP) was off yesterday but pitched in three straight and four of five days before that, including two innings on Friday. Setup man RHP Joel Peralta (3.66 FIP) has pitched the last two days, three of the last four days, and four of the last six days. LHP Wesley Wright (4.05 FIP) and RHP Jamey Wright (2.99 FIP) have appeared in each of the last two days and three of the last four. Wright is just a lefty specialist though, so he only faced a batter or two each time out.
Setup LHP Alex Torres (2.40 FIP) and LHP Jake McGee (3.41 FIP) both had two straight days off before pitching yesterday. RHP Roberto Hernandez (4.59 FIP) has taken over as the long man while LHP Cesar Ramos (3.96 FIP) is more a multi-inning lefty than a specialist. Trade deadline pickup RHP Jesse Crain (1.52 FIP) was just activated off the DL yesterday — the trade was structured so that the more he pitched for Tampa, the better the player to be named later would be — and has yet to appear in a game for Tampa. LHP Jeff Beliveau, RHP Brandon Gomes, RHP Jose Lueke, and RHP Jake Odorizzi round out the expanded roster bullpen.
The Yankees were off yesterday and are in fine bullpen shape. They haven’t used a single reliever other than David Robertson or Mariano Rivera since Thursday. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the exact details. For the latest and greatest on the Rays, I recommend The Process Report and DRays Bay.