Freddy steps in, doesn’t miss a beat

(AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

Lost in the frustration of last night’s loss was Freddy Garcia‘s strong performance in his return to the rotation. The injuries to CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte forced the Yankees to remove Freddy from the long man role and essentially make him the fourth starter, and he responded by allowing just two runs in 5.1 innings while being held to a 75-pitch limit. His last pitch was a game-tying solo homer by Carlos Pena, so his night ended on a sour note, but otherwise he did exactly what the team needed him to do.

“I need to step up,” said Garcia after last night’s game. “We’ve got a couple of guys hurt. I want to do good. That’s all, man. I want to pitch good. I’ve got the chance again, and I want to take my opportunity to prove I can be in the starting rotation.”

Of course, Freddy was banished to the bullpen because he was a disaster in April. He pitched to a 12.51 ERA (5.39 FIP) in his four starts, failing to complete even two full innings twice. Joe Girardi used him very sparingly during May and June — ten appearances (17.1 IP) in the team’s 54 games — and very rarely in a close game. Seven of those ten appearances came with the score separated by three or more runs. Freddy pitched well though (1.57 ERA and 2.94 FIP) and despite all that talk about his fastball velocity coming back, you’ll be hard-pressed to find it in the PitchFX data. I think that might have to do with the system’s issues classifying his repertoire more than anything.

For a while I was on the “just release Garcia” bandwagon, which was really born out of frustration as the team struggled in mid-May. When the Yankees are losing we want to see changes made, it’s human nature, and Freddy was an easy move to make. Obviously the club is smarter than me (and you) and they decided to keep the pitching depth, which is coming in mighty handy right now. The fact that Freddy isn’t some kid they have to baby is a plus as well; the Yankees can be aggressive with him and run him out there for 74 pitches after he hadn’t thrown more than 33 in a month like they did last night.

The Garcia we saw last night was pretty much the guy we saw all of last season, a super-finesse guy who generated some weak contact, some hard-hit outs, and kept the Yankees in the game. With Sabathia and Pettitte out for the time being, that’s what the team is going to need Freddy to do in his spot starts. Given his track record and the general unpredictability of young pitchers like David Phelps and Adam Warren, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the sweaty one assumed Pettitte’s rotation spot in the long-term, or at least until the Yankees go out and make a trade.

Close games and a worn out bullpen

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Yankees went into last night’s game against the Rays with a team 112 wRC+, tied with the Cardinals for the second best in baseball behind the Rangers (113). Their 373 runs scored were only the sixth-most in baseball though, thanks in large part to their struggles with men in scoring position. That has started to correct itself a bit — they hit .304/.370/.609 with RISP during the recent homestand and went 3-for-9 last night — but there’s still quite a bit of work to be done in that department.

As a result, the Yankees have played an awful lot of close games in recent weeks. During their 20-7 rampage through the month of June, they won just eight games by more than three runs and only five by more than four runs. Five of their last seven wins have been decided by two runs or less. The Yankees average 4.76 runs per game and they don’t seem to deviate from that too much, especially of late. Only thrice this season have they scored double-digit runs and only ten times have they scored eight or more. That’s about once every ten days.

All of these close games have forced Joe Girardi to use his bullpen a bit more heavily than I’m sure he would like. Boone Logan has already appeared in 40 games this season and is on pace for 82 appearances, which would easily be the largest workload by a reliever during the Joe Girardi era*. Both Rafael Soriano and Cory Wade (before he was sent down) were on pace for 69 appearances prior to last night, and Clay Rapada is on pace for 76 appearances as well. That last one isn’t a huge concern though, Rapada has thrown more than ten pitches in an outing just 17 (!) times this year. Even the recently acquired Chad Qualls is on pace for about 68 appearances this year thanks to his time with the Phillies.

The Yankees have been playing very well for several weeks now and that’s wonderful, but they’ve also been playing an abnormally high number of close games — I’m talking games decided by two or three runs, stuff like that — as well. The team’s core relievers are starting to see their workloads climb — check out the Bullpen Workload page, it’s not just appearances, it’s also all the times these guys warm up and don’t get into the game — and that can be a problem. Hopefully the offense can start breaking some games open in the middle innings and Girardi’s primary relievers can get some extra rest down the stretch in the second half, because the pace these guys are on right now will put them in the danger zone as far as late-season burnout goes.

* The “record” currently belongs to 2010 Joba Chamberlain, who appeared in 73 games. 2009 Phil Coke (72) and 2011 David Robertson (70) are the only other relievers to appear in at least 70 games during Girardi’s four full seasons at the helm.

Yanks give one away at the Trop

Make it eight straight losses at Tropicana Field dating back to last season. To make matters worse, the Yankees were beat by three players who are at least in the conversation for the worst hitter in the American League. Pretty awful.

(AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

Gift Wrapped

The Yankees carried a 3-2 lead into the seventh inning and while that isn’t the most comfortable of leads, it’s certainly better than being on the other end of the ledger. The eventual game-winning rally was setup by a one-out walk to pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez, who has drawn five of his 15 (!) walks against the Yankees this season. I know Boone Logan is a lefty specialist and Rodriguez is a righty, but man he’s got to do better than walking that guy when he’s ahead in the count 1-2.

The big blow came when David Robertson fell behind in the count to the certifiably awful Brooks Conrad, who laced a 3-1 double off the right field wall to tie the game. The ball was maybe three or four feet from hitting the pole for a homer. Robertson has to be more aggressive there, you can’t fall behind in the count to a guy like Brooks freakin’ Conrad. Logan too, they have to stop showing respect to these trash hitters and put them away. Mark Teixeira‘s three-base error — on a play he makes 99 out of 100 times — to allow the game-winning run was just icing on the cake. The loss falls on the shoulders of Joe Girardi‘s top two setup relievers and their inability to put non-Major League caliber hitters away. Loved the move to go to Robertson in that spot, he just didn’t get the job done.

(AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

The Return of Sweaty Freddy

Injuries to CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte forced Freddy Garcia back into the rotation, and he turned in a very solid outing against the Rays on Monday. He was definitely left in a batter — arguably two, but that’s not worth the effort — too long, but two runs in 5.1 innings is something I think we all would have signed up for coming into the game. I dunno why Girardi would have Clay Rapada up and warming if he wasn’t going to use him against Yankees killer Carlos Pena in the sixth, but whatever. Pena homered to tie the game.

Anyway, Freddy did it in typical Freddy fashion. He got away with several hard-hit balls that happened to find defenders, but he also got his fair share of weak pop-ups and funny, off-balance swings. Girardi said he was scheduled for 60-70 pitches but ended up throwing 74, though maybe playing indoors in the air conditioning helped keep him fresh. Either way, Garcia struck four, walked none, and gave the team a pretty big lift. Nice job, Fred.

Leftovers

(REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

The Yankees scored a pair of runs in the first thanks to a really bad misplay by former embedded Yankee Hideki Matsui, who lost a ball in the roof and turned a routine popup into a double. They really had a chance to pile on Matt Moore in that first inning but only managed to two runs. Their third run came in the seventh without the benefit of a hit — Chris Stewart walked, moved to second on a wild pitch, then came around to score on two sacrifice flies.

Annoyingly enough, on two occasions Moore followed up a visit from the pitching coach with an inning-ending double play on the very next pitch. It happened in the first, then it happened in the sixth. They say the first pitch after a visit from the pitching coach will always be a fastball, but when the guy is throwing 95-96 with ease, maybe it’s not the wisest idea to swing no matter what. Also, it was pretty funny how the two starting pitchers in the game could not have been any more different.

Every starter had a hit except for Curtis Granderson — he drove in the team’s third run with a sac fly — and Nick Swisher. The 3-4-5 hitters went a combined 5-for-10 with two walks but everyone else went a combined 4-for-22. Robinson Cano lined into a double play back to Moore with two men on in the third, just a frustratingly bad piece of luck. Moore three seven innings and did not set the side down in order a single time. He was in trouble all night.

Logan and Robertson effectively blew the game in the seventh, but the rest of the bullpen took care of business. Cody Eppley allowed an infield hit but otherwise got a double play and recorded three outs while facing three hitters. Rapada struck out Pena (two innings too late), the only man he faced. Chad Qualls made his Yankees debut by retiring the two right-handers he faced. That’s the one real problem with the bullpen right now, these three guys are all specialists and it limits flexibility.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

Yuck. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated the standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

Same teams, different starters (Jamie Shields vs. Ivan Nova) in game two of this three game series on Tuesday night. Winning at Tropicana Field shouldn’t be this difficult.

GCL Yanks make it 11 straight wins

Update: Lots of promotions. OF Mason Williams, OF Tyler Austin, and C Gary Sanchez have all been promoted to High-A Tampa while OF Rob Segedin, C J.R. Murphy, and OF Neil Medchill are going to Double-A Trenton. C Kyle Higashioka is going down to Tampa while IF Jose Toussen, IF Tyson Blaser, and OF Eduardo Sosa are going down to Low-C Charleston. Not fair for Blaser, but that’s minor league life.

Notes…

  • RHP Ricky Orta (elbow) was placed on the DL after leaving yesterday’s game with an elbow problem. RHP Sean Black was promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton to take his roster spot.
  • RHP Zach Nuding (tired shoulder) is close to returning to the High-A Tampa rotation. He’s been on the shelf for just about a month now.
  • LHP Vidal Nuno was named the Double-A Eastern League Pitcher of the Week, so congrats to him.

Triple-A Empire State (5-4 loss to Lehigh Valley in ten innings, walk-off style)
3B Ramiro Pena: 1-4, 1 BB
2B Corban Joseph: 2-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K — nine hits in his last 25 at-bats (.360) with six doubles
LF Ronnie Mustelier & DH Jack Cust: both 0-4, 1 BB — Mustelier struck out once, Cust twice
C Frankie Cervelli: 1-5, 1 R, 2 K
1B Brandon Laird: 1-4, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — eight hits in his last 24 at-bats (.333)
RF Cole Garner: 2-4, 1 BB, 1 K
CF Colin Curtis: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
SS Doug Bernier: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K
RHP Ramon Ortiz: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 1/0 GB/FB — 59 of 89 pitches were strikes (66.3%) … he was sitting 89-91, a far cry from his days with the Angels
RHP Ryota Igarashi: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 3/0 GB/FB — 15 of 27 pitches were strikes (55.6%)
LHP Juan Cedeno: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1/0 GB/FB — half of his eight pitches were strikes … walked in the game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth
RHP Jason Bulger: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 WP, 0/1 GB/FB — nine of 16 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Phillies have begun gauging trade interest in Cole Hamels

Via Jon Heyman, the Phillies have begun calling around to gauge trade interest in free agent-to-be Cole Hamels. Philadelphia went 9-19 in June and is 11 games out in the division, so a full blown sell-off could be coming. That said, Buster Olney reports that the asking price is very high, as in four prospects (including a third baseman and outfielder) with multiple Grade-A guys. The 2010 Cliff Lee and 2008 CC Sabathia trades are obvious comparisons here.

Hamels, 28, is having yet another stellar season — 3.08 ERA and 3.28 FIP — and would be an upgrade to any rotation in baseball, including New York’s. The hole created by Andy Pettitte‘s injury makes the left-hander even more of an obvious fit. As Joe and I mentioned on Friday’s podcast, the Yankees simply may not have the pieces to deal for Hamels, meaning high-end prospects at the upper levels of the minors. I can’t imagine the Phillies wouldn’t take a package headlined by a bunch of Low-A kids for their homegrown ace no matter how good they are.

Game 79: The Trop

Just as charming inside as it is outside. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The Yankees haven’t won a game at Tropicana Field in almost a year now. Their last win there was this combined shutout last July 20th, but they’ve since lost seven straight in their home away from home. Three of those games were the final series of last season, when the Yankees had no interest in winning and were more concerned with getting healthy and lining up the playoff rotation. Enabling the Rays to complete their end of The Collapse was just icing on the cake. The last three games of this seven-game winless streak were the first three games of this season, which featured a walk-off loss in the opener, a one-run loss in the second game, and a blowout loss in the finale. The Rays are reeling right now and it would be nice to get back into that Trop win column. Here’s the lineup…

DH Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
RF Nick Swisher
LF Andruw Jones
SS Jayson Nix
Chris Stewart

RHP Freddy Garcia

Coincidentally enough, Garcia was the starter the last time the Yankees won a game in this building. Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Raul Ibanez Update: Ibanez (face) had to get stitches in his lip after smashing his face into the bench trying to avoid a foul ball yesterday. He passed a concussion test, has been cleared to play, and has rejoined the team in Tampa. Short version: he’s fine, just looks a little beat up.

Joba faced hitters today, will begin rehab stint “within two weeks”

Via Erik Boland and Chad Jennings, rehabbing right-hander Joba Chamberlain said he will appear in his first minor league rehab game “definitely within two weeks.” He threw a 40-pitch live batting practice session today — in front of Joe Girardi, Larry Rothschild, and others — his first time facing hitters as part of his rehab process as far as we know. He’s scheduled to throw a simulated game on Friday.

Joba continues to make pretty remarkable progress as he comes back from Tommy John surgery and a dislocated ankle, but David Aardsma‘s recent setback is a nice little reminder that he still has a long way to go. If he’s able to begin his 30-day rehab clock two weeks from today, a mid-August return would be in the cards if everything goes well. That’s a big if, obviously.