When the Yankees drafted Slade Heathcott in the first round of the 2009 draft, everyone knew the kid had a troubled past, but we didn’t really know what happened. The most popular rumor was that his parents were in jail for drug-related issues. Well, thanks to Gene Sapakoff of The Post & Courier, now we know what happened, and it’s far worse than I think anyone could have imagined. If you only read one thing on this site all day, this is it. Absolute must read. · (60) ·
I managed to keep the answers short-ish this week, so I squeezed in a few more questions than usual. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions.
Tony asks: How much longer do the Yankees have team control over Robertson?
David Robertson rode the Bronx-Scranton bus in 2008 and finally stuck for good in May 2009. He’s in his final pre-arbitration year right now, and is under team control through 2014 as an arbitration-eligible player. So long story short, three more seasons after this one. That was easy enough.
Dan asks: So, this kills me to ask, but seeing as how I don’t think he’s been hit by one pie since the thing started, and I’ve pretty consistently watched him ground out late in games for the last few years, when was the last time Cap’n Clutch was really clutch?
There’s two ways we can quickly look at this. Just looking at Derek Jeter‘s “Clutch” score, he hasn’t been positive since 2006 (+2.33). He’s hovered between -0.11 and -0.85 over the last few seasons. I prefer WPA/LI, which uses win probability and leverage index to tell us how much the player contributed in the context of the game situations. Jeter last had a positive WPA/LI in 2009 (+1.41). Subjectively, I’ll say 2009. That’s the last time I was confident in Jeter getting the job done, so to speak, whenever he came to the plate in a “big” spot.
J.R. asks: Couldn’t Damon Oppenheimer be a great in house option to replace Cashman? I remember that another team wanted to interview him for a GM spot but that the Yankees wouldn’t grant him permission. (I’m not advocating it, just pointing out that the Yankees have an in house option).
This was sent in following yesterday’s post about contract non-news. Oppenheimer’s the best in-house candidate, and the Yankees actually blocked him from talking to the Diamondbacks about their GM opening over the winter. They had the right to do that, but I still thinking blocking a potential upward move is a dick move. Anyway, it’s either Oppenheimer or pro scouting director Billy Eppler, but neither has even assistant GM experience. Yeah, they’re candidates to replace Cashman, but they’re hardly ideal options.
Jonathan asks: What are the chances the Yanks have three guys play for ROY next year? Assuming those three are Montero, Banuelos and Betances.
I’m comfortable giving this one a big fat 0% chance. There’s a far better chance that one of those guys is playing elsewhere at this time next year, but even if they all are in the organization it’s unlikely all three will be up. Frankly if both Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are in the rotation all year in 2012 (which they would basically have to be to get Rookie of the Year consideration), then something has gone horribly wrong. There’s also a non-zero chance that Jesus Montero will cross the 130 at-bat rookie threshold this year. It would be pretty cool if all three guys were that good that soon, but I’m not getting my hopes up.
Ryan asks: What do you think of Grady Sizemore as a replacement in RF for Swisher after this year. He looks healthy, and as long as he remains healthy and productive, CLE will not be able to sign him long term after next year’s option. That would be a fun defensive outfield with Gardner, Granderson, and Sizemore, if not just a little too left handed.
I’ve written quite a bit about Sizemore already this spring, and my stance remains unchanged: he has to show he can produce and stay healthy. He’s been pretty good since coming off the disabled list (power heavy .413 wOBA), but it’s been 18 games and 84 at-bats. Let’s see him make it the rest of the season before we start thinking about acquiring him. The other question is how do you acquire him? His club option for 2012 turns into a player option if traded, so you can’t trade for him and expect him to stick around next year. If he’s worth trading for, then he’ll be good enough for a nice contract and will presumably opt for the open market. His bad start notwithstanding, right now I’d just pick up Nick Swisher‘s option and and go from there.
Rich asks: I was hoping you could shed some light on something different I’ve noticed about A.J. this year. Not only has his curveball lost some of it’s bite, but his fastball seems almost straight compared to the movement it’s had in years past. I know he’s made some obvious (and less obvious) changes to his mechanics and I’m sure Rothschild has had an influence, but what happened to all that movement?
Really? I think his curveball has regained some bite after it disappeared last season. PitchFX says the pitch had 5.7 inches of drop last year and 6.3 inches of drop this year. Just over half-an-inch, so it’s not a huge change, but a change nonetheless. Burnett got a swing-and-miss on the curve 14.1% of the time last year, and it’s up to 17.7% this year. A little more vertical movement and substantially more whiffs leads me to believe the bite is back, and even if it’s not, the pitch has been more effective this year based on the run values.
Anyway, PitchFX says he’s lost an inch of horizontal movement off his fastball, down from 5.1 to 4.1 inches. Perhaps it’s the result of the revamped mechanics, or maybe it’s a conscience decision to try to help him improve command. There were times over the last two seasons that it seemed like Burnett’s fastball was moving too much for his own good. It could also just be normal decline, pitches tend to flatten out as the guy gets older. Either way, A.J.’s been good so far this year, so I hope he just keeps doing whatever he’s been doing.
There’s nothing from Thursday’s game worth writing about, so I’ll just say “thank you” to Amaury Sanit for sparing the bullpen. He was called up before the game for that very reason, and he ended up throwing 81 pitches from the fourth through eighth innings after Ivan Nova‘s implosion. In fairness to Nova, his defense really let him down. That six-run second inning was some of the ugliest baseball I’ve seen the Yankees play in a long time. Sanit’s season high in Triple-A was 62 pitches, and on only one other occasion did he throw more than 40 pitches. So yeah, a big thanks to him for sacrificing his 31-year-old arm and saving the rest of the bullpen before Boston comes to town.
Otherwise, ugly ugly ugly. I mean, at least Alex Rodriguez hit a homerun (plus another ball hard for an out), so maybe he’s starting to come around. We can dream, can’t we? The Royals won their first series in the Bronx since 1999, and now we get to welcome the Red Sox to town for a weekend set. Bartolo Colon gets the ball against Clay Buchholz on Friday night. Here’s the box score and WPA Graph of this game, if you’re curious.
Update: Here’s video of Montero’s homer. That’s a bomb, you can see why his power will play well in Yankee Stadium. Opposite field, baby.
Another day, another Double-A Trenton starting pitcher gets hurt. This time it’s Craig Heyer, who was placed on the disabled list with a hand issue. Apparently he took a batted ball to the hand the other day, and they’re still waiting on x-ray results. Doesn’t like anything major, so hopefully he’ll just miss a start or two, nothing more. Kevin Russo is back with Triple-A Scranton after clearing waivers, by the way.
Triple-A Scranton (5-3 win over Buffalo)
Chris Dickerson, DH: 1 for 4, 1 R, 2 K – just four for his last 22 (.182)
Dan Brewer, RF, Jordan Parraz, LF & Luis Nunez, 2B: all 0 for 3 – Brewer walked, scored a run, and struck out … Parraz got hit by a pitch, scored and whiffed
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 K – just his second homer of the season … this one came off a rehabbing big leaguer, turning a one-run deficit into a two-run lead in the eighth inning … apparently it landed well beyond the right field wall in the party pavilion, which is the opposite field
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 0 for 4, 2 K
Justin Maxwell, CF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 SB - that’s just his fifth double, though the dozen homers make it okay
Brandon Laird, 3B: 0 for 4, 1 K
Doug Bernier, SS: 1 for 3, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 E (throwing)
Adam Warren, RHP: 7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 10-3 GB/FB – 61 of 105 pitches were strikes (58.1%) … allowed a homer for the fourth straight start (five total) … he’s allowed five homers total in 192 IP over the last two years
Andy Sisco, LHP: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-0 GB/FB – seven of his nine pitches were strikes
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 11 of 16 pitches were strikes (68.8%) … continues to cruise right along
Yogi Berra turns 86 years young today, and I’m pretty sure he’s seen more baseball and knows more about the game than all of us combined. I hope the Yankees’ gift to him a big blowout win over the Royals tonight. Happy birthday, Yogi. Here’s the starting nine…
Derek Jeter, DH
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B – I guess the ol’ melon is okay after yesterday’s plunking
Nick Swisher, RF
Brett Gardner, LF
Eduardo Nunez, SS – over/under on the number of bad throws is set at 2.5
Frankie Cervelli, C – guessing that Joe Girardi wants to use Russell Martin in all three games vs. Boston
Ivan Nova, SP
You can watch this game on YES locally or MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.
Note: The Yankees will play a day-night doubleheader in Baltimore on August 27th to make up for the April 22nd rain out. That a Saturday five days into a 16 games in 16 days stretch, so a) they’ll need to call up a spot starter, and b) it might wreck the bullpen. But then again, it’s more than three months away, so who knows.
Update (6:08pm): Via Brian Costello and Mark Feinsand, Ramiro Pena was optioned to Triple-A and Jess Todd was designated for assignment. We hardly knew ye, Jess. Pena can’t be recalled for ten days, dems the rules, so the Yankees will either have a three-man bench for the next week and a half or they’re going to call up Kevin Russo (who would have to be re-added to the 40-man roster) or Brandon Laird sometime soon. I’m guessing it’s the former.
Original Post (4:30pm): Via Joel Sherman and Donnie Collins, the Yankees are calling Amaury Sanit up from Triple-A Scranton to reinforce a taxed bullpen. Both 25-man and 40-man rosters moves will be required to accommodate Sanit, though both could by accomplished by designating Buddy Carlyle for assignment. They could always option someone and slide Phil Hughes to the 60-day disabled list as well.
Sanit, 31, is pretty terrible. His 24-6 K/BB in 16.1 IP is very nice, but he’s extremely hittable (10.4 H/9 over the last two years) and works with fringy stuff. Sanit did make a few spot starts in the minors this year and is probably good for 60 pitches if needed, but his call up is almost assuredly a temporary measure. Don’t be surprised if they run him into the ground if there’s a blowout tonight, then cut him tomorrow and replace him with someone else. · (47) ·
Via Dan Barbarisi, Eric Chavez’s injured foot isn’t fractured, he just has a really deep bone bruise. The fracture doctors saw in the x-ray was an old fracture from when Chavez was a kid; apparently he had a condition in which he was born with fractures in both feet and had to wear casts as a child. It sounds weird but it happens, I was born with bone spurs in both my ankles for no apparent reason. I didn’t have to wear casts though. Anyway, no fracture is good news, though Chavez is still 2-3 weeks away from rejoining the team, · (17) ·
As the 2011 season marches along, there’s one gigantic elephant in the room that everyone’s trying to forget about for the time being: CC Sabathia‘s opt-out clause. The Yankees’ ace can skip out on the final four years and $90-something million dollars left on his contract after the season and hit the free agent market in search of greener pastures. Sabathia will be the best freely available pitcher by a mile, and the Yankees desperately need him to stick around.
Brian Cashman said yesterday that the team will not discuss a new contract with Sabathia during the season despite some obvious reasons why they probably should. This is not news though. The Yankees have a long-standing policy of not talking contracts until the current one expires, regardless of the player’s status or importance to the team. In fairness, Cashman also stuck to the rule three years ago, when his contract expired and he didn’t pursue some kind of extension beforehand. Barring a complete catastrophe, Sabathia will opt out because it’s the smartest move he could possible make.
On the open market, CC is going to have a lot of leverage against the Yankees, and I mean a lot. An unprecedented amount, even. But the Bombers won’t be completely handcuffed because only a limited number of teams can afford to give Sabathia the monster contract he’ll be seeking, and at the end of the day absolutely no one can offer him more than New York. Sabathia has also said “I’m not going anywhere” while noting that he lives in the area year-round and that his kids go to school here. That’s just a clever way of not saying he won’t use the opt out though. So if/when he does bail on the rest of his contract, CC’s choices will be a) come back to the Yankees on a new deal that will pay him handsomely, or b) take less money elsewhere and uproot his family for the second time in three or so years. And be hated by Yankees fans for basically the rest of eternity.
In other contract non-news, Hal Steinbrenner refused to commit to Cashman beyond this season, simply saying that the higher-ups will base the decision on more than just the team’s performance this year. Cashman responded by saying nothing, almost literally: “Nothing to respond to.” His latest three-year contract is up, and although he was more candid than expected this past winter, he and the Steinbrenners still have a strong working relationship.
The Sabathia opt out situation is sure to be messy, but I think Cashman’s will be messier. I figure CC will return after using Cliff Lee’s contract with Philadelphia (six years, $150M) as a starting point in negotiations (he’s got a much longer track record and will still be younger this winter than Lee was this past offseason). Maybe he’ll make all our hopes and dreams come true and decide not to use the opt out, but I would be stunned if that happened. Cashman has some leverage over ownership given the way they went over his head for Rafael Soriano and with Derek Jeter‘s contract, plus the fact that there’s no ready-made, in-house replacement available. These decisions won’t have to made for a few months, but ever so often reminders like this will pop up.
Games like last night’s happen throughout the course of a 162-game season, but that doesn’t make them any less frustrating. The Yankees are still in first place and (more importantly) still have the second best run differential (+39) in the league. It hasn’t been pretty over the last few weeks, so let’s break out the old complaint box…
That’s what the Yankees are hitting with men in scoring position over the last two weeks or so, since the second game of the Detroit series*. I usually don’t put an overwhelming amount of stock in performances with RISP since it’s generally a small sampling of plate appearances (just 90 over that time, which is nothing in context of the entire team), but that doesn’t mean the Yankees’ failures in those spots don’t drive me insane. Last night was the epitome of RISPFAIL, as they went just 2-for-16 with men on second and/or third and stranded 15 runners in 11 innings. Just awful.
The newer, slimmed down version of Alex Rodriguez was a monster at the outset of the season, hitting .385/.500/.821 with four homers in his first 13 games before missing one game and part of another with a stiff back/oblique. He just hasn’t been the same since, hitting .194/.260/.269 in his 17 games back. The grand slam in his first game back against the Orioles seems like a distance memory. It’s clear that Alex’s timing is off at the plate; he’s fouling off pitches he should crush and completely whiffing on others he should at least hit hard somewhere.
I had some fun with David Robertson‘s knack for pitching out of other people’s messes yesterday, but you know what? The guy has a serious walk problem. He’s always been a little wild, sure, but this year he’s unintentionally walked nine men in 14 innings (5.79 uIBB/9), and that includes eight walks in his last 5.2 IP. Robertson’s walked at least one batter in his last six appearances after walking just two in his first ten games. Is it possible that warming up practically every game in April is taking a toll on his arm now? He’s never been known as a control freak, but the sudden spike in free pass rate is a nice piece of anecdotal evidence. That leads me to this…
I hate ‘em. Mariano Rivera in the ninth? Perfectly fine with me, no issue there whatsoever. $35M setup man in the eighth? Fine, I can live with that. But having a designated seventh inning guy? Now we’re really pushing the envelope of common sense. There needs to be more flexibility with Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and even Boone Logan in those spots, if for no other reason than to avoid wearing one or all of them out given all these close games the Yankees have been playing.
How many rundowns have we seen the Yankees botch this season, especially when pitchers are involved? Whatever the number is, it’s too many. Rundowns have to be viewed as guaranteed outs, and they’ve not only failed to convert a number of them, but they’ve often ended up costing the team runs. We’ve also seen instances of pitchers forgetting (or being too lazy) to cover first base, or just muff balls grounded to their area. Did they just skip PFP in camp because four-fifths of a rotation is made up of veteran guys? Whatever it is, the sloppy play needs to be cleaned up.
* * *
These are just a few of the more … annoying aspects of the team right now, but there’s certainly several others. Those include the heavy use of the sacrifice bunt, Buddy Carlyle’s presence on the roster, Logan’s general inability to get out lefties, Cano’s hackiness, so on and so forth.
* Cherry-picking at its finest.
Last night was not a game we want to relive, but hey, we’ve got a show about the Yankees. It’s tough to avoid topics like this. Somehow, we find a way to end on a high note.
Podcast run time 19:13
Here’s how you can listen to podcast:
- Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
- Listen in your browser by left clicking the above link or using the embedded player below.
- Subscribe in iTunes. If you want to rate us that would be great. If you leave a nice review I’ll buy you a beer at a meet-up.
Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.