Once every five days, the Yankees aren’t half bad. Masahiro Tanaka will be on the mound this afternoon as the Yankees look to avoid being swept by the best team in baseball in the final game of what has been a disaster homestand. Six games, one win. With Tanaka’s help, they might be able to leave town with a 2-5 homestand.
The lineup is getting some much needed help this afternoon as Carlos Beltran returns from what was close to a month long stint on the disabled list. No, he wasn’t hitting much when he got hurt, but he’s a new face in the lineup. Something has to change with the offense and getting Beltran back will help, hopefully right away. Here is the Athletics lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- DH Carlos Beltran
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- C Brian McCann
- RF Alfonso Soriano
- 2B Brian Roberts
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
It was pouring all morning in New York but stopped within the last hour or so. Doesn’t look like they’ll have any trouble getting a full nine innings in. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing right now. The game is scheduled to begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally, depending on where you live. Enjoy.
11:40am: Dan Barbarisi says Sizemore is on optional assignment waivers like Matt Daley earlier this year and Ramiro Pena a few years ago. He wasn’t actually dropped from the 40-man roster, it’s just a procedural thing due to his service time.
11:15am: As expected, the Yankees have activated Carlos Beltran off the 15-day disabled list. Scott Sizemore was designated for assignment to clear room on the roster. I wonder why they didn’t just send him to Triple-A Scranton. The team now has two open 40-man roster spots.
Beltran, 37, missed a little less than a month due to a bone spur in his right elbow. Joe Girardi said the plan is to use him exclusively at DH because they don’t want to risk re-aggravating the injury by having him throw. Beltran said he feels fine now and will continue to receive treatment all season. He hit .234/.286/.430 (90 wRC+) with five homers in 140 plate appearances before getting hurt. · (34) ·
We all want to believe his emergence is real. He’s had 200 plate appearances. He has slumped and made us think that the spell was broken. Just when we think it’s over, he comes back and starts hitting again.
Where would the Yankees be without Yangervis Solarte?
Actually, don’t answer that. We read your comments and your tweets. The answer would only depress us.
Much joy as his early season performance has brought, Solarte has a long way to go before he proves he’s for real. History just isn’t on his side. Players typically don’t debut at age 26 and hit like borderline stars.
Hell, players don’t debut at age 26 and even qualify for the batting title. Only 44 have done it since 1901, and three quarters of them did it before 1950. Of those, only seven of them did so in what is termed the Expansion Era (1973 to present).
Even of those seven, two were Cuban defectors: Yoenis Cespedes and Alexei Ramirez. No, they didn’t have MLB experience before their age-26 seasons, but they also weren’t prospects who toiled in mediocrity before suddenly breaking out.
That leaves us with just four decent comparisons to Solarte (Rookie of the Year voting finish in parentheses).
|1||Yoenis Cespedes (2nd)||139||2012||OAK||129||540||142||25||5||23||82||43||102||16||.292||.356||.505|
|3||Dan Uggla (3rd)||112||2006||FLA||154||683||172||26||7||27||90||48||123||6||.282||.339||.480|
|4||Chris Singleton (6th)||105||1999||CHW||133||530||149||31||6||17||72||22||45||20||.300||.328||.490|
|5||Chris Sabo (1st)||105||1988||CIN||137||582||146||40||2||11||44||29||52||46||.271||.314||.414|
|6||Alexei Ramirez (2nd)||104||2008||CHW||136||509||139||22||2||21||77||18||61||13||.290||.317||.475|
|7||David Eckstein (4th)||89||2001||ANA||153||664||166||26||2||4||41||43||60||29||.285||.355||.357|
When I thought of players who debuted at 26 and thrived, Uggla immediately came to mind. It wasn’t long ago at all that the Marlins selected him in the Rule 5 draft, inserted him into the starting lineup, and watched him smash 27 home runs.
Uggla didn’t have a terrible minor league career; it just took him three-plus years to get out of A ball. He actually thrived at AA in 2005, but apparently it wasn’t enough for the Diamondbacks to place him on the 40-man roster.
Solarte could do worse than to emulate Uggla’s career. Sure, he’s toast right now, at age 34, but he had a pretty good run for about six years, hitting .258/.343/.482 (116 OPS+).
Yes, everyone’s favorite scrappy underdog didn’t debut until age 26. He’d actually hit pretty well throughout his minor league career, but struggled a bit upon hitting AA in 2000. The Red Sox placed him on waivers and the Angels claimed him.
In 2001 he debuted and hit not so great, .285/.355/.357. That might be remarkable in today’s game, but back then it was an 89 OPS+. He did go on to have a few decent seasons after that, including a 101 OPS+ in the Angels’ 2002 championship season.
A second round pick in 1993, Singleton struggled early in his minor league career. He didn’t flash even half-decent power until age 23, and didn’t have a good season until age 24. After that good season, the Giants traded him to the Yankees for Charlie Hayes. But he proceeded to have a bad season, so the Yankees traded him to the White Sox for some guy you’ve never heard of.
Singleton broke camp with the Sox in 1999 at age 26 and proceeded to hit .300/.328/.490 and finish sixth in the AL Rookie of the Year Award voting. Singleton would never produce even average numbers again (his slash line was good for a 105 OPS+ in 99).
Yes, the goggled dude took a while to incubate in the minors. In fact, he spent two full seasons at AAA before making his debut. He certainly hit well enough to earn it. In his first season he hit .271/.314/414, a 105 OPS+ that earned him the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Two years later he won a World Series.
Sabo had a few good seasons, including a pretty monster 1991 season, but he peaked in his late 20s. As did most of these guys. As do most players, really.
The craziest part about this list: Solarte right now has better numbers than all of them. You’d have to count the Cuban players to find one who put up full-season numbers better than Solarte is currently producing. (Cespedes, obviously.)
At the same time, he probably has the least impressive minor league track record among the five drafted players who debuted at age 26. He certainly spent the longest time down there. Sabo, Eckstein, Singleton, and Uggla all got drafted out of college. Solarte was signed as an amateur free agent at age 17 and debuted stateside at age 19.
Given the thin history of players who debuted at 26, it is still difficult to believe that Solarte can keep up his hot hitting. Not only are there few players who debuted at 26 and qualified for the batting title, but none of them, save for Cuban defectors, hit nearly as well as Solarte.
Still, I want to believe. There has to be some magic about this team. Right?
I guess the good news is the Yankees scored more than two runs on Wednesday night. They also scored more than three runs for the first time on the homestand. They still lost though, this time 7-4 to the Athletics. The Yankees have lost four straight, five of six, and 19 of 33.
Three Runs, One Swing
It’s amazing what happens when you hit the ball out of the park, isn’t it? The Yankees have spent the last few weeks trying to string together base hits to score multiple runs, and while they still did some of that in the four-run third inning, a rare homerun did most of the damage.
The start of that third inning was rather ominous for righty Jesse Chavez, who walked Ichiro Suzuki on four pitches to start things off. John Ryan Murphy struck out, then Brett Gardner laced a line drive single to center to put runners on the corners with one out. The double play possibility was very real with Derek Jeter at the plate, but thankfully Gardner took care of that with a stolen base. The one thing the A’s don’t do well is control the running game.
Jeter opened the scoring with a soft ground ball to shortstop, soft enough to go for a run-scoring infield single. Gardner was unable to advance to third on the ball. That’s when something weird happened: the Yankees hit a homer. Jacoby Ellsbury, specifically. I thought it was ticketed for extra bases into the gap off the bat, but the just kept carrying and carrying and carrying. It landed in the home bullpen and was the team’s third three-run homer of the season. That’s all. Three three-run homers in 58 games. Yangervis Solarte and Brian McCann have the others. Ellsbury’s blast gave the Yankees what felt like a comfortable four-run lead.
Lead? What Lead?
Of course, no lead is truly comfortable against the highest scoring team in baseball, especially not with Joe Girardi‘s usual late-inning relievers hitting a bump in the road lately. Vidal Nuno gave a solo homer to the very first batter he faced after being staked to a four-run lead, and then an inning later Jed Lowrie lifted a sac fly to the right field warning track to cut the lead to 4-2. Nuno put the number eight (Alberto Callaspo walked) and nine (Nick Punto singled) hitters on base to set that rally up. The Lowrie sac fly was dangerously close to a three-run homer.
Things got out of hand in the sixth inning. Matt Daley replaced Nuno with two outs in the fifth because Girardi didn’t want the soft-tossing lefty facing Josh Donaldson a third time. Daley retired Donaldson to end the fifth, then served up a solo homer to Cespedes to open the sixth.The next batter, catcher Derek Norris, reached base on Jeter’s throwing error to set up the game-tying rally. The routine throw short-hopped first base. Unfortunately that’s become the norm this year.
In came Matt Thornton to face the left-handed Brandon Moss, who promptly singled to center on the field pitch. It was a soft, well-placed single to beat the shift. Girardi opted to keep Thornton in to face a parade of righties, which worked as well as you’d expect: Kyle Blanks drew a walk and Callaspo lifted a game-tying sac fly to the left field warning track. Like Lowrie’s an inning earlier, it was very close to being a homer. The Athletics sent 13 men to the plate at one point from the fourth through sixth innings, and eight reached base to erase the four-run deficit.
These Are Not The Relievers You’re Looking For
The score was knotted at four after six innings, so, naturally, Girardi turned the game over to the two relievers who were added to the roster earlier in the day. Jose Ramirez made his big league debut in the seventh and allowed a go-ahead solo homer to Donaldson on his fifth career pitch. He allowed three base-runners and just that one run in two innings of work. Not a terrible debut, all things considered.
Wade LeBlanc got the ball in the ninth inning, which went single (Lowrie), single (Donaldson), ground out (Cespedes), intentional walk (Derek Norris), hit-by-pitch to score a run (Moss), sac fly to score another run (Blanks), ground out (Callaspo). A one-run game became a three-run game because the worst reliever on the team was in the ballgame. I guess that’s better than burning through the good bullpeners in a game they were going to lose anyway.
I didn’t even bother to watch the bottom of the ninth because a) the (hockey) Rangers were playing, and b) they weren’t going to score anyway. Sure enough, the game log tells me they went down 1-2-3 in the ninth. Gardner had two hits and Ellsbury had three hits. The rest of the lineup had four hits. Ellsbury’s homer was the only extra-base hit, of course. The Yankees have had exactly one extra-base hit in four straight games. No more, no less.
Nuno failed to complete a full five innings for the fourth time in his last eight starts. Three relievers combined to allow five runs (four earned) on six hits, three walks, and a hit batsman in 4.1 innings. The bullpen picked a really bad time to start stinking, huh?
The Yankees will look to avoid being swept on Thursday afternoon, assuming it doesn’t rain. If it doesn’t, Masahiro Tanaka and Drew Pomeranz will be on the mound. At least this team is still watchable once every five days. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to chance Mother Nature and attend the game.
Make sure you check out that video above about OF Aaron Judge. Here are some more notes:
- Here’s another video courtesy of Josh Norris, this one featuring LHP Manny Banuelos striking out Phillies OF Aaron Altherr. It’s a 14-pitch at-bat that eventually ends with a strikeout. Banuelos threw the kitchen sink at him. Fastball, changeup, curveball, the works.
- RHP Jaron Long has been promoted from Low-A Charleston to High-A Tampa, according to Mark Feinsand. The hitting coach’s kid tore up the Sally League (1.64 ERA and 2.32 FIP) after signing as an undrafted free agent.
Triple-A Scranton (14-7 loss to Norfolk)
- 2B Jose Pirela: 3-5, 1 R, 1 RBI — 13-for-30 (.433) in his last six games
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 2-5, 1 R, 1 RBI
- DH Kyle Roller: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB — 13th homers in 43 games
- C Austin Romine: 2-5, 1 2B, 1 K
- RHP Joel De La Cruz: 3.2 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 7/1 GB/FB — 46 of 81 pitches were strikes (57%)
- RHP Jairo Heredia: 0.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K — 23 of 39 pitches were strikes (59%) … he’s fit right in with the big league team
- RHP Mark Montgomery: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 16 of 23 pitches were strikes (70%)
- RHP Danny Burawa: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 16 of 30 pitches were strikes (53%) … 23/10 K/BB in 18.2 innings
Former Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer has passed away at age 83, his family confirmed. He had surgery in April to correct a leaky heart valve and had been in a Florida rehabilitation center ever since. Zimmer spent the 1983 and 1996-2003 seasons on the Yankees’ coaching staff.
“Don spent a lifetime doing what he loved,” said Hal Steinbrenner in a statement. “He was an original—a passionate, old-school, one-of-a-kind baseball man who contributed to a memorable era in Yankees history. The baseball community will certainly feel this loss. On behalf of our organization, we offer our deepest condolences to his wife, Soot, their two children and four grandchildren.”
“I hired him as a coach, and he became like a family member to me,” added Joe Torre in a statement. “He has certainly been a terrific credit to the game. The game was his life. And his passing is going to create a void in my life and my wife Ali’s. We loved him. The game of Baseball lost a special person tonight. He was a good man.”
Zimmer spent 66 years in baseball as a player, a manager, a coach, and a front office executive. He played with Jackie Robinson, managed Carl Yastrzemski, and coached Derek Jeter. Zimmer was also an original Met and had worked most recently with the Rays as a senior advisor. He left the Yankees following the 2003 season because he felt he was being treated unfairly by George Steinbrenner.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to watch it no more,’” said Zimmer to Tom D’Angelo in 2010. “George was my friend for 25 years, and all of a sudden, he just turned.”
Zimmer grew up in Cincinnati, married his wife at home plate before a minor league game in 1951, and had two kids and four grandkids. Condolences go out to his family and friends.
The Yankees have yet to score more than three runs in a game on the homestand — a homestand that is already guaranteed to be a losing homestand, FYI — and they’ve managed exactly two runs in each of their last three games. Do you think they can top that tonight? I didn’t even break out the “Just Win” slump-buster title because I don’t want to be greedy. Score more than two runs and I’ll be happy. I’m a simple man. Here is the Athletics lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- DH Brian McCann
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- 2B Brian Roberts
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- C John Ryan Murphy
LHP Vidal Nuno
It is cloudy and hot in New York, but the rain isn’t expected until much later tonight. Should be no problem for the game. First pitch will be a little after 7pm ET. You can watch the game on YES locally and ESPN2 nationally. Enjoy.
Injury Updates: Carlos Beltran (elbow) is on his way back to New York and could be activated as soon as tomorrow. Joe Girardi said he will mostly DH because they don’t want to risk re-aggravating the bone spur in his elbow with throws … CC Sabathia (knee) played catch for the first time, making 25 throws. He felt fine and will do it again tomorrow … Shawn Kelley (back) threw a simulated game and will pitch in a minor league rehab game on Saturday. He could be activated after that if things go well.
Roster Moves: In case you missed it earlier, the Yankees basically swapped Alfredo Aceves and Preston Claiborne for Jose Ramirez and Wade LeBlanc. The latter two are available out of the bullpen tonight.
Sam Travis | 1B
Travis is from Orland Park, a few miles outside Chicago, and he wound up at Indiana after turning down the Reds as their 40th round pick in 2011. He hit .317/.407/.527 with 19 homers and a 68/68 K/BB in 125 games as a freshman and sophomore. Travis has hit .346/.411/.582 with 12 homers and a 26/23 K/BB in 57 games this spring. He played through a broken hamate bone in 2013 and won a bunch of hardware with the Hoosiers, including Conference Freshman of the Year and Big Ten Tournament MVP.
Listed at 6-foot-0 and 210 lbs., Travis looks very much like a power-hitting first baseman. He’s short and quick to the ball from the right side, doing the most damage when he pulls the ball for power. Travis stands out for his excellent approach and plate discipline. He recognizes breaking balls, knows the strike zone, and is aggressive when he gets a pitch he can drive. He showed he can hit for power with wood bats in the pitcher-friendly Cape Cod League last summer (four homers and 12 doubles in 44 games). Travis started his college career at third base but has since moved to first, where he is okay around the bag but otherwise unspectacular. He’s definitely a bat first prospect.
Baseball America, Keith Law (subs. req’d), and MLB.com ranked Travis as the 56th, 57th, and 62nd best prospect in the draft class, respectively. Law said he the Yankees have expressed interest in Travis as well, presumably for their top selection (55th overall). Right-handed hitting first basemen are usually not the most popular demographic, but power is getting harder to find and this draft is light on bats. The second round is exactly where someone like Travis fits these days.
The Yankees have shaken up their bullpen, at least slightly. Alfredo Aceves has been designated for assignment and Preston Claiborne has been sent down to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. In corresponding moves, Jose Ramirez was called up and Wade LeBlanc was added to the active roster. LeBlanc was claimed off waivers from the Angels yesterday. The moves leave the Yankees with an open 40-man roster spot.
Aceves had a 6.52 ERA (6.22 FIP) in 19.1 innings during his second stint in pinstripes. He somehow allowed six homers in his last 12 innings. In addition to his bad pitching, I think the Yankees were sick of his attitude as well. Aceves didn’t seem to get on the same page as Brian McCann, plus Larry Rothschild had to go out to the mound the other day to tell Aceves to stop throwing inside after giving up a few homers. He’s long had some attitude problems.
Claiborne had a 3.57 ERA (3.74 FIP) in 17.2 innings. I think he’s going down because the team wants to get a look at Ramirez more than anything. Ramirez had a 0.84 ERA (2.86 FIP) in 10.2 Triple-A innings this year after missing the start of the season with an oblique problem. LeBlanc simple takes over as the veteran journeyman long reliever Joe Girardi can use and abuse as needed. With the starters struggling to go five innings at times, that’s guy is kinda necessary.
The Yankees called up Scott Sizemore and demoted Zoilo Almonte yesterday, and today they shook up the bullpen a little bit. Carlos Beltran is expected to activated off the disabled list either tomorrow or the next day, so there is at least one more change coming. It’s not much, but it’s better than remaining status quo. Sizemore should be more useful than Almonte, Ramirez could be an impact reliever, and dumping Aceves is a positive almost regardless of who replaces him.
In his first eleven starts of the season, Masahiro Tanaka has been dominant and one of the very best pitchers in all of baseball. I expected him to be very good this year, but not this good. No adjustment period, no bumps in the road, nothing. Even his bad starts are still pretty good. Tanaka’s been the rock in the rotation and he’s making the Yankees look very, very wise for their much-criticized $175M investment.
In his first eleven starts of the season, Tanaka has faced ten different teams. The only team he has faced more than once is the Cubs of all teams. An interleague rival the Yankees won’t see for another three years. There are still seven AL clubs that have yet to see the former Rakuten Golden Eagles ace. The schedule has worked in Tanaka’s favor and he’s had the element of surprise going for him in all but one of his starts.
Tanaka’s worst start of the season was that second game against the Cubs two weeks ago. He allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits in six innings, the only time he’s allowed more than three earned runs in an outing. It was raining for a good chunk of that game remember, and the rain surely could have affected his performance. He didn’t look all that comfortable on the mound, I remember that much. That said, the Cubs acknowledged seeing Tanaka once before did help them out.
“If you look at the first game, we were having trouble hitting the ball out of the infield. If a guy is throwing the ball down, you’re going to hit a ground ball,” said catcher John Baker to David Lennon. “Our goal was, when we get something up in the strike zone, to get a swing off. Whether it’s the first pitch or 0-and-2, we were looking more up as opposed to for our pitch. Generally, across the board with the lineup, I think we executed it pretty well.”
Tanaka did indeed leave some pitches up in the zone against the Cubs — here is the pitch location for the eight hits, six of which were belt high — and he paid for it. They still couldn’t lay off the splitter, swinging at 18 of the 23 he threw, missing nine times. That 50% whiff rate is basically identical to the splitter’s 49.2% whiff rate for the season. He just made some bad pitches and he paid for them. That’s baseball.
One thing we’ve seen from Tanaka in his first eleven starts is that he will leave some pitches up in the zone, but he’s had a tendency to get away with them. There have been a lot of swing-throughs on handing sliders and just plain old called strikes on pitches up in the zone. Here is Tanaka’s pitch location heat map for the season. The darker the red, the more pitches in that particular zone compared to the league average:
So yeah, compared to the rest of the league, Tanaka has definitely left more pitches basically in the middle third of the strike zone and higher. The PitchFX data backs up the eye test in this case. That many pitches up in the zone is generally a bad idea, but I also think Tanaka’s unpredictability — PitchFX says he’s thrown eight different pitches this year, including four at least 20% of the time each — allows him to get away with those pitches more often than the average pitcher. I don’t know how we could go about investigating that, it’s just a thought.
Tanaka will face the Athletics tomorrow, the Mariners next Tuesday, and then the Athletics again the following Sunday, barring rainouts and whatnot. After that, the Yankees play 15 straight games against AL East rivals, teams that have already seen Tanaka once this year. So, after these next two starts against the A’s and Mariners, he’ll run into a stretch of games against clubs he has already faced. The element of surprise will be gone. Those teams will have a first-hand scouting report and experience seeing him, which tips the scale in the other direction slightly.
Everything in baseball is designed to give the pitcher the advantage. Hitters need four balls to draw a walk but pitchers only three strikes to make an out. The offense needs to travel four bases to score a run yet the pitcher only needs three outs to end the inning. Heck, the pitcher even stands on a mound raised above the rest of the playing field. The pitcher controls the at-bat and it’s up to the hitters to first make the adjustment to him, not the other way around. If what worked for Tanaka the first time through the league works again, then he has no reason to change.
If it doesn’t work though, I think he has more than enough weapons to adjust and remain a top flight starter. I mean, is Tanaka going to maintain a 2.06 ERA and 2.52 FIP all season? No, probably not. Even in this offensively starved era that is still an unrealistic standard for a guy in a tiny ballpark in the AL East. Tanaka does have two put-away offspeed pitches in his slider and (especially) splitter, plus he’s shown he will pitch to both sides of the plate and dot the edges. And the dude has no fear too. That’s not nothing. The second time through the league is coming up and it will be a test for Tanaka. He has the tools to succeed though. His success to date is no fluke.