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Yankeemetrics: May 11-14 (Rays)

(Steve Nesius/AP)
(Steve Nesius/AP)

From zero to hero
Finally. CC Sabathia got his first win of the season on Monday night as the Yankees beat the Rays in the series opener. His 0-5 record to start the season was the fourth-worst opening stretch by any Yankee lefty in the last 100 years.

The odds of getting a win were really stacked against CC entering the game. His 4-8 record at Tropicana Field was his worst at any ballpark he’d started more than five games, and the Yankees offense had scored just 13 runs during his first six starts this season. It makes perfect sense then that the Yankees broke out for 11 runs and gave the large lefty a rare win at Tropicana Field. Of course, what else were you expecting?

The Yankees backed Sabathia with barrage of home runs – five of them – and gave him plenty of run support to work with. It was their first five-homer game with Sabathia on the mound since May 8, 2011 against the Rangers. Since that night four years ago, the Yankees had eight other games with at least five homers — and somehow either Ivan Nova or Phil Hughes was the starting pitcher in five of them!

Singles night at the Trop
The Yankees scored two runs in the top of the first inning on Tuesday night but were then held scoreless the rest of the night despite generating a good number of scoring chances, and lost as the Rays rallied to win.

One day after it seemed like every ball went over the fence, the Yankees were held to just eight singles – that’s it. It was the first time since Opening Day that they didn’t have at least two extra-base hits in a game. That 32-game streak with multiple extra-base hits was tied for the fourth-longest by the franchise over the last 100 years.

Chris Archer held the Yankees to just two runs in seven innings, and though he didn’t get the win, he still hasn’t lost or given up more than three runs in seven starts vs. the team. He is the only pitcher to start his career with a streak of least seven unbeaten starts and three-or-fewer runs allowed against the Yankees in the last 100 years.

Deja vu?
The Yankees scored two runs in the top of the first inning on Wednesday night but were then held scoreless the rest of the night despite generating a good number of scoring chances, and lost as the Rays rallied to win.

Wait, what?! Did I just plagiarize myself? Sadly, yes.

They were also held without an extra-base hit for the second game in a row, scattering 10 singles off four Rays pitchers. It marked the first time the Yankees had at least eight hits, without any of them going for extra bases, in consecutive losses since Sept. 6-7, 1965 against the Orioles.

Adam Warren was the tough-luck loser on the mound for the Yankees, allowing three runs in a career-best seven innings. It was the first time in his 10 career starts that he completed at least six frames. Warren enters the record books as the only Yankee to debut in the last 100 years and pitch fewer than six innings in each of his first nine major-league starts.

A-Rod to the rescue
The offensive drought continued for the Yankees on Thursday, losing 6-1 to the Rays in the series finale. Alex Rodriguez saved the team from being shut out for the first time this season with a ninth inning solo homer, which also was their first extra base hit since Mark Teixeira homered in the ninth inning of Monday’s game. In between those longballs, the Yankees played 26 innings and hit 22 singles.

That was A-Rod’s fourth homer in seven games this year at Tropicana Field. No player on any team — even the Rays — has hit more homers at the ballpark this season. It also was his 1,000th RBI with the Yankees, making him the 13th player in team history to reach that milestone. Since RBI became official in 1920, that is easily the most 1,000-RBI players on any franchise (Cubs and Tigers are second with seven).

Erasmo Ramirez is the third starting pitcher in 2015 to hold the Yankees to one hit with five-or-more innings pitched (Anibal Sanchez on April 23, Joe Kelly on April 11). Only three pitchers did that against the team in all of 2014. There’s still four-and-a-half months left of baseball to play this season.

Mailbag: Kendrick, Pirela, Pineda, Maris, All-Stars, Young

Got nine questions in the mailbag this week. You can send us questions via the “For The Mailbag” form in the sidebar at any time. There’s no confirmation page, I know, but your questions go through, trust me. It just looks like they don’t.

(Harry How/Getty)
Kendrick. (Harry How/Getty)

Owen asks: What do you think the Yankees chances are of singing Howie Kendrick to a deal in the upcoming off-season? He seems to fit the Yankees needs and current free agent policies fairly well; that is, he plays a position that the Yankees will need filled (I don’t believe in Rob Refsnyder‘s defense), and he’s the kind of guy who can be had for a somewhat large annual salary but without a long term commitment attached to it. What do you think a Kendrick deal would look like? Maybe 5 years 100M? I’d be on board.

Aside from the Robinson Cano outlier, the largest free agent contract given to a second baseman the last six years is the four-year, $30.25M deal the Royals gave Omar Infante last winter. Kendrick should clear that easily, I’m just not sure by how much. Five years and $100M seems like an awful lot for a guy on the wrong side of 30 who is consistently above-average but not truly great. That’s basically Jose Reyes money and Reyes was way more dynamic when he hit the market.

Johnny Peralta and Chase Headley signed nearly identical four-year contracts worth $52M-ish the last two offseasons and I think Kendrick’s in line for a bit more, but not a ton. Maybe he’s a $16M a year player rather than a $13M a year player like those two. Four years and $64M? I don’t think I would be comfortable offering more than that to a guy who turns 32 in July and is trending downward defensively.

Now, that said, yeah I think the Yankees would look into signing Kendrick and he would be a really great fit for the lineup if he continues to produce like he has the last few years. They could definitely use another high contact righty bat. Kendrick is off to a great start this year (136 wRC+) and I think he’ll finish the season close to his 2012-14 level (111 wRC+) when it’s all said and done. Second basemen usually don’t age all that well and Kendrick’s best years are almost certainly behind him. Maybe he will get five years and $100M after all. I’m not sure I’d want to be on the hook for that though.

Dan asks: Why should I give guys like A-Rod and Nelson Cruz the benefit of the doubt when it comes to PED use? Cruz is having a career year in a pitchers park, past his prime; A-Rod last hit this well when he was 32 years old (he’s 39 now). Am I just jaded?

You’re free to give whoever you want the benefit of the doubt. Those two guys cheated, they got caught, and they don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt as far as I’m concerned. That’s just me. You’re welcome to feel however you want about them. Heck, I’ve already seen articles saying A-Rod is probably on PEDs again and others saying he’s clean. I’d like to think the testing system works and everyone’s clean, but that’s not the case and it never will be the case. That’s just the way it is. It would be nice if players didn’t cheat, yet they do and they always will as long as the sport exists.

Pirela. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Pirela. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Ethan asks: I know a lot can happen between now and when he’s healthy, but is it possible the team’s stronger with Jose Pirela instead of Brendan Ryan? It seems like his offensive floor is almost certainly higher, and we’ve already got two people who can play SS.

Yes, I definitely agree with that. Ryan can’t hit and his defense, while still solidly above-average, isn’t what it was a few years ago. Pirela might be able to hit, we don’t know that for sure yet, but most agree he’ll never be much of a defender. Ryan isn’t useless, the ability to play shortstop is a valuable skill. The Yankees already have what amounts to two defense first shortstops in Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew though, and they don’t need another. Pirela’s a better fit for the Yankees. That said, I think the difference between the two will be relatively small given sparse playing time.

Mark asks: As would be expected, the duo of Drew and Gregorius have considerably more range than Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts. Chase Headley also has much more range than anyone they had at 3rd base last year … what is the percentage of ground balls that are making it through this infield compared to last year?

I agree the infield range is much improved this year. It’s very obvious watching each night. I’m not sure ground balls are a great way to measure range though because, well, the Yankees kinda stink at shifting. Seems like they burned by it constantly. Here’s how the club has fared at preventing ground balls from turning into hits this year compared to the last few years:

NYY GB BABIP MLB GB BABIP
2015 .251 .239
2014 .252 .247
2013 .255 .240
2012 .250 .238
2011 .250 .237

Consistently worse than the league average, so yeah, they stink at shifts. (Despite the widespread use of the infield shift, more ground balls are not being turned into outs in 2015, both by the Yankees and by MLB in general. The shift is definitely hurting some specific hitters, but league-wide there has been no real change.) The Yankees are converting ground balls into outs at the same basic rate as the last few years, but again, I’m not sure that’s a good measure of range. Positioning plays a huge role.

David asks: Who was the last pitcher to have more wins than walks over the course of a full season? I remember Curt Schilling accomplishing that at his peak. Think Pineda can do it this year?

More wins than walks has happened just four times in history among players who qualified for the ERA title. If we lower the innings minimum to 100 innings, it’s still only happened five times in history. If we drop the innings minimum all together, the list is 67 names long. Lots of guys came up, pitched in one game, got the win without walking anyone, then didn’t pitch again that season.

Here’s the list of guys who had more wins than walks while throwing at least 100 innings, via Baseball-Reference:

Rk Player Year W BB IP FIP ERA+
1 Bret Saberhagen 1994 14 13 177.1 2.76 153
2 Slim Sallee 1919 21 20 227.2 2.78 136
3 Christy Mathewson 1914 24 23 312.0 2.83 88
4 Christy Mathewson 1913 25 21 306.0 2.49 152
5 Deacon Phillippe 1910 14 9 121.2 2.55 138

Five times in history and just once in the last 96 (!) years. Crazy. Schilling is one of the greatest command pitchers in baseball history, but the closest he ever got was 2002, when he had 23 wins and 33 walks. Two pitchers are on pace to do the more wins than walks thing this year: Pineda (five wins, three walks) and ex-Yankee Bartolo Colon (six wins, one walk). My guess is neither gets there. It’s way too hard to go a full season walking that few hitters. At some point they’ll just have one of those days and walk four batters in a start, which will screw everything up.

Larry asks: Who was Roger Maris traded for when Yankees acquired him?

The Yankees acquired Maris from the Kansas City A’s in December 1959 in a seven-player trade. Maris, IF Joe DeMaestri, and 1B Kent Hadley came to the Yankees in exchange for RHP Don Larsen, OF Hank Bauer, 1B/OF Norm Siebern, and 1B/OF Marv Throneberry. Maris, Larsen, and Siebern were the principles. Bauer was a big name near the end of his career while the others were extra players.

Bauer had some great years in pinstripes, but he was 37 at the time of the trade and would only play 138 games with the A’s from 1960-61. Larsen threw his World Series perfect game at age 26 in 1956, but by 1959 he had a career 100 ERA+ in 1,049.2 innings. After the trade he had a 98 ERA+ in 498.1 innings from 1960-67. Siebern had some nice years in Kansas City, hitting .289/.381/.462 (126 OPS+) with 78 homers from 1960-63.

Maris was only 24 at the time, and was coming off a season in which he hit 16 homers and batted .273/.359/.464 (123 OPS+). He owned a career 107 OPS+ in three years at the time of the trade. Then, two years after the trade, he set the then-single-season home run record. Despite Siebern’s production and the name recognition of Bauer and Larsen, the Yankees won this deal easily. Maris hit .265/.356/.515 (139 OPS+) in seven seasons with New York.

P.J. asks: I know it’s early but who do you think on the Yankees stands the best chance to make the All-Star team, pitchers and position players?

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Five players jump to mind: Alex Rodriguez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Michael Pineda, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances. Brett Gardner‘s been awesome but the All-Star Game is a popularity contest and he’s not popular enough. It is what it is. Mark Teixeira‘s been great too but I don’t think he’ll get in over Miguel Cabrera, Eric Hosmer, or Jose Abreu, barring injury.

Ellsbury, Pineda, Miller, and Betances are pretty self explanatory. Just remember, it’s really hard for a non-closer reliever to get into the Midsummer Classic. Betances was the rare exception last year. A-Rod will be interesting, especially if the fans don’t vote him in as the starting DH. (Do that!) Will the players and coaches vote in someone not many people seem to like even if his production warrants it? A-Rod’s something of a pariah.

Adam asks: Is it too early to think that Chris Young might be a good qualifying offer candidate?

Oh no, he’s definitely not. Young has been awesome, but the qualifying offer is expected to be in the $16M range this offseason, and he’s not that kind of player. He’d accept the one-year, ~$16M offer in a heartbeat at this point of his career. Even if he kept up his current production all year. Young’s a part-time player these days. A good one, but still a part-time player. No way the Yankees risk giving him a qualifying offer.

Young, Garrett Jones, Stephen Drew, and Chris Capuano are the team’s notable free agents after the season, and none of them are qualifying offer candidates. Next year’s crop of free agents includes Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Ivan Nova, Brendan Ryan, and Esmil Rogers. Nova is the only one of those guys who could be worth a qualifying offer, and even then he’d have to bounce back from Tommy John surgery exceptionally well. Unless they hit it big with a one-year contract guy next season, the Yankees don’t have any extra draft picks coming their way anytime soon. Pineda’s the next no doubt qualifying offer guy on the roster and he’s three years from free agency.

Hank asks: Do you think A-Rod has a chance to get to 715 HR?

Yes I think he has a chance, albeit a small one. A-Rod is 52 homers away from passing Babe Ruth with his contract set to expire after the 2017 season. So he has two seasons and four and a half months to hit 52 homers. Keep in mind he hit only 41 homers from 2011-13 before getting suspended in 2014. Rodriguez has been mashing early this year, but will it last all summer? And into next year? And the year after that? For A-Rod to have a chance to pass Ruth and take over third place on the all-time list, he’s going to have to hit a ton of dingers this season and make up as much ground as possible. I have to think his power will continue to fade in his early-40s.

Yankees lose Whitley to injury, series finale 6-1 to Rays

Might be time to shave the mustaches, fellas. The Yankees dropped their third straight game on Thursday night, losing 6-1 to the Rays. They’ve lost three straight games for the first time since April 9-11 and only the second time this year.

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Down Goes Whitley
Losing a game is one thing, losing a starting pitcher to injury is another. Chase Whitley exited Thursday’s game with an elbow injury in the second inning, and while speaking to reporters after the game, Joe Girardi sure made it sound like they are expecting Friday’s tests to show a major injury. Yuck. Whitley admitted his elbow has been bugging him for a while, but he said he didn’t tell anyone and tried to pitch through it. No regrets, he said.

Before Whitley exited the game, he allowed a run on a two-out, two-strike single to James Loney, who makes a living off making the Yankees pay. Whitley got two quick outs in the second, but walked the next two batters, and none of the balls were particularly close to the plateither. In hindsight, that was a pretty clear indication something was up. Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue popped out of the dugout after the second walk and Whitley was done.

In came long man Esmil Rogers with runners on the corners — Asdrubal Cabrera stole second and advanced to third when Brian McCann threw the ball into center field earlier in the inning — and light-hitting catcher Rene Rivera swatted his first pitch out to dead center field for a three-run homer. I didn’t even think it was that bad of a pitch. It was a slider right at the knees, a borderline at best strike (via Brooks Baseball):

Esmil Rogers Rene Rivera

The homer effectively put the game out of reach given the offense’s recent struggles. Rogers did soak up 3.1 innings out of the bullpen before David Carpenter, Chasen Shreve, and Branden Pinder threw an inning each. Shreve allowed a run on three hits while Carpenter and Pinder had 1-2-3 innings. Hopefully this is the start of Carpenter getting on the right track. The Yankees could use him.

Losing Whitley is a real bummer. Losing pitching depth is never good, no matter where the guy sits on the depth chart. Girardi confirmed Chris Capuano, who threw six innings in his latest minor league rehab start earlier this week, will slot back into the rotation to replace Whitley, they just haven’t decided when yet. The Yankees have two off-days next week and don’t need a fifth starter until May 26th, 12 days from now.

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Almost Nothing
The Yankees were on the verge of being shut out when Alex Rodriguez hit an opposite field solo home run leading off the ninth inning. It was the team’s first extra-base hit since Mark Teixeira‘s homer in the ninth inning on Monday. The Yankees haven’t gone three straight games without an extra-base hit in nearly 15 years, and they avoided it by one inning.

Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game with a single and the Yankees didn’t pick up another hit until Brett Gardner singled in the sixth. They had five hits total: two by Ellsbury, one by Gardner, two by A-Rod. The top three hitters in the lineup went 5-for-11 (.455) and the other six hitters went 0-for-19. Eek. Teixeira and Chase Headley drew walks and that’s it. Seven base-runners all game. Bit of a funk for the offense.

Leftovers
Gardner had a tremendous defensive inning in the seventh and didn’t even record an out. Hits were blooping in all over the place and he cut off three of them to prevent them from becoming extra-base hits, including two with dives. No outs were recorded, but he likely shaved a few runs off Shreve’s ERA.

Following Ellsbury’s leadoff single in the first, Gardner was credited with a sac bunt when he laid the ball down in front of the plate, but I’m pretty sure he was trying to bunt for a hit. There was a bit of a jailbreak out of the box. Still don’t like it though. He’s swinging the bat too well to settle for a bunt. Swing the bat in the first inning! Do some damage maybe.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. We also have Bullpen Workload pages and Announcer Standings pages that are worth checking out. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This four-game series in Tampa is finally over. Didn’t it seem like it lasted forever? It did to me. Anyway, the Yankees are off to Kansas City for a three-game weekend series with the Royals. Big Mike Pineda will be on the mound in the series opener Friday night. It’ll be his first start since his 16-strikeout gem last weekend. Believe it or not, he won’t be the tallest starting pitcher in the game. The 6-foot-10 Chris Young will start for the Quarter Pounders.

DotF: Andujar goes deep again in Tampa’s win

Double-A Trenton manager Al Pedrique told Nick Peruffo there is no real concern for RHP Luis Severino, who was placed on the 7-day DL yesterday with a blister. He’s expected to miss one start, that’s it. 1B Greg Bird, on the other hand, will miss “a few weeks” with a shoulder strain. Bird is not with the team, he’s in Tampa rehabbing.

Triple-A Scranton (10-2 win over Durham)

  • CF Slade Heathcott: 2-6, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 CS — had been in a little 5-for-24 (.208) slump
  • LF Ramon Flores: 0-3, 1 R, 3 BB, 1 K
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-5, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 E (throwing) — first error in several weeks after a rough defensive start to the year
  • C Austin Romine: 0-2, 1 RBI, 3 BB
  • RHP Jaron Long: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 7/6 GB/FB — 58 of 86 pitches were strikes (67%)
  • RHP Danny Burawa: 1 IP, zeroes, 3/0 GB/FB — nine of 14 pitches were strikes (64%)

[Read more…]

Update: Chase Whitley exits Thursday’s start with elbow injury

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

10:05pm: Following the game, Joe Girardi told reporters Whitley has been dealing with an elbow issue for a while now. He didn’t tell anyone and tried to pitch through it. Ugh. Hate that. No shame in speaking up if you’re hurt, especially if you’re a pitcher and it’s your arm. That’s the moneymaker, man.

8:48pm: Whitley left the game with a right elbow injury, the Yankees announced. He’s being looked at by a doctor and will go for tests in the morning. YES showed Whitley winching in pain after throwing several pitches in that second inning. Ominous, this is.

8:03pm: Right-hander Chase Whitley left tonight’s start against the Rays in the second inning with an unknown injury. There was nothing obvious — Whitley didn’t appear to be favoring anything from what I saw — before Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue came out to the mound. Whitley exited the game without even attempting a test pitch. Here’s the video.

Whitley walked his final batter on four pitches, none of which were particularly close. He made several other pitches that were well off the mark as well, including one that went to the backstop, which was the only indication something was wrong. The Yankees have not yet given any sort of update on the injury, so stayed tuned.

Injuries are never good, especially to pitchers, but the timing isn’t disastrous for the Yankees. Chris Capuano threw six innings in his third minor league rehab start earlier this week and will presumably be able to step right into Whitley’s rotation spot, if necessary. These things always work themselves out, don’t they?

Game 36: Maybe Score After The First Inning?

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Those losses the last two nights were pretty annoying. Annoyingly similar too. Early offense, nothing thereafter, and a quality pitching performance squandered. Blah. The Yankees lost back-to-back games for the first time in nearly a month, and hey, it was bound to happen sometime.

The Yankees can earn a split of this seemingly never-ending four-game series with the Rays tonight. They’re 6-3 against Tampa Bay so far this season, including 4-2 in Tropicana Field despite these last two losses. They Yankees are playing well. This is just one of those inevitable blips. Right? Right. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Chris Young
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Jose Pirela
    RHP Chase Whitley

More rain in St. Petersburg tonight. Hooray for the dome and climate control. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10pm ET tonight and you’ll be able to watch live on YES locally and MLB Network nationally, depending on where you live. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Brendan Ryan (calf, hamstring) played in an Extended Spring Training game today but had to leave due to heat exhaustion. Seriously.