Sunday Links: A-Rod, Sabathia, Sierra, Jeter

(David Banks/Getty)
(David Banks/Getty)

The Yankees wrap up their ten-game, three-city road trip a little later this afternoon with the series finale against the White Sox. Until then, here are some stray links to help you pass the time.

A-Rod on TV?

According to Bob Raissman, FOX and Alex Rodriguez‘s representatives have had preliminary discussions about A-Rod becoming involved in the network’s postseason coverage. Alex’s camp is talking to TBS and ESPN too. ESPN only carries one wildcard game while TBS gets the other wildcard game, four LDS games, and one entire LCS. FOX gets everything else.

I get the feeling Rodriguez would be an excellent television analyst. Who knows how he’ll be on camera and stuff — live television is hard! — but as far as baseball knowledge, A-Rod is unmatched. The guy lives and breathes the game. He’d have a ton of insight to offer. Of course, none of this will matter because Alex will be busy carrying the Yankees to the World Series this October. Nice of the networks to reach out though.

No talk of removing Sabathia from rotation

This isn’t a surprise. Brian Cashman told Wally Matthews the Yankees have not discussed removing CC Sabathia from the rotation. “That’s not something that we’re considering at this moment,” said the GM. “We’re going to continue to give him every opportunity to work through this for the foreseeable future.”

This is pretty frustrating, but again, not a surprise. Michael Pineda‘s injury means the Yankees couldn’t even take Sabathia out of the rotation if they wanted, but, even with a healthy Pineda, Sabathia was going to stay in there. The Yankees want to try to salvage the last few years of his contract even though he’s hurting their chances of getting back to the postseason. My guess is I’ll be writing this same blurb a few more times the next two years.

Yasiel Sierra works out for scouts

Cuban right-hander Yasiel Sierra worked out for scouts in the Dominican Republic last week, reports Jesse Sanchez. Sanchez says the 24-year-old Sierra works in the 93-97 mph range with a good slider and a recently added changeup. Because of his age and international experience, Sierra is not subject to the international spending restrictions, so the Yankees can sign him to contract of any size.( They’re limited to $300,000 for younger international amateurs the next two signing periods as part of the penalties stemming from last year’s spending spree.) I don’t know anything about Sierra beyond what’s in this post, but if he’s really 93-97 with a good slider, chances are there’s at least reliever potential there.

Jeter in Hollywood Reporter

I don’t really have much to add here: Hollywood Reporter recently ran a feature on Derek Jeter, focusing on his post-baseball life with The Players’ Tribune and his publishing venture. “I didn’t want to wake up one day and say, ‘What am I going to do now?'” said Jeter, acknowledging he’d been thinking about his post-baseball career for quite a while. Check it out. Neat article. (h/t Jeff Beck)

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2015 Midseason Review: First-half Yankeemetrics

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

As part of Mike’s great Midseason Review series, I’m here to give you some of the amazing (both good and bad) statistical notes from the unofficial first half of the season, plus a quick look ahead to a few of the records that these six Yankees below will be chasing during the remainder of 2015.

Without further adieu, your first-half Yankeemetrics:

Brett Gardner
Gardner is certainly deserving of the being the Yankees’ first-half MVP, and if Mike’s write-up on Tuesday didn’t convince you, then how about this note: Gardner is the second player in franchise history with at least 10 homers, 20 doubles, 15 steals and a .300 batting average at the break. The other? Alfonso Soriano in 2002 — which just happened to be the year he came thisclose to a historic 40-40 season (39 homers, 41 steals).

Something to watch for in the second half: Gardner needs three steals to reach the magic number of 200. He would be the second Yankee, along with Hal Chase, to have 200 stolen bases in their first eight major league seasons — and the only player in franchise history with at least 200 steals and 50 homers through their first eight career seasons.

Mark Teixeira
Teixeira is having a tremendous bounceback season, leading the AL with 62 RBI and also hitting 22 homers. He is just the second Yankee in the last 40 years to be the outright league leader in RBI at the break, along with A-Rod (2007) and Don Mattingly (1985).

This is the third time as a Yankee he’s had at least 20 homers and 60 RBI before the All-Star break (also in 2009, 2011). Since the first All-Star Game in 1933, here’s the list of other Yankees to reach those benchmarks three-or-more times before the break: Mickey Mantle and Jason Giambi.

Something to watch for in the second half: Teixeira is on pace for his first 40-homer season as a Yankee. The only other player in franchise history to hit at least 40 homers in his age 35-season or older is Babe Ruth, who did it three times (1930-32).

Alex Rodriguez
If you told me that A-Rod would have the third-most at-bats on the team (he’s healthy!) and have 18 homers and 51 RBIs (he’s productive!) in the first half of the season, I might have suggested psychological treatment for you. How rare is it for a guy as old as A-Rod to be hitting that well?

The only other players in their age-39 season or older to have at least 18 homers, 50 RBI and 80 hits before the All-Star break (since 1933) are Edgar Martinez (2003), Andres Galarraga (2000) and Dave Winfield (1991). Yup, the Summer of Al continues.

Something to watch for in the second half: If A-Rod can stay healthy and get at least 500 plate appearances this season, while maintaining his current slash line of .278/.382/.515 or better, he’d join Barry Bonds (2004) and Ted Williams (1958) as the only players to finish a season with those marks in their age-39 season or older.

Stephen Drew
Of course we had to put Drew’s bizarre statistical first half into context, even if he might just be a bench guy in the second half (yes, please). With 12 homers and an unfathomable .182 batting average in the first half, Drew is the first player in franchise history to hit double-digit home runs and have a batting average under .200 at the break.

In fact, his .182 batting average is the third-lowest in major-league history for any player with at least 10 homers in the unofficial first half of the season. The only guys with a lower average are the Cubs’ Mike Olt (.144 in 2014) and the Twins’ Tim Laudner (.181 in 1987).

Something to watch for in the second half: I don’t think Drew is going to get enough at-bats to reach 20 or 25 homers, but what if he gets to 15? The lowest batting average for a guy that hit at least 15 homer runs in a season is .179, done by Dan Uggla (2013) and Rob Deer (1991). That’s doable!

CC Sabathia
At least he is healthy, right? Well, that might actually be the problem, because Joe Girardi has little choice but to keep sending Sabathia out there every fifth day (sort of) despite his ugly numbers (4-8, 5.47 ERA).

Sabathia is the third Yankee starter to lose at least eight games before the break with an ERA of 5.40 or higher. The other pitchers on this inglorious list are Tim Leary (1991) and Ralph Terry (1964). In the words of the aforementioned manager, “it’s not what you want.”

Something to watch for in the second half: How bad can it get for CC the rest of the season? The highest ERA for any Yankee pitcher that qualified for the ERA title in a non-strike season is 5.30 by Bump Hadley in 1937. (Unfortunately, Hadley is better known for something else that season, as the pitcher that beaned Hall-of-Famer Mickey Cochrane and ended his career.)

Dellin Betances
Betances couldn’t quite match his numbers from the first half of the season last year (84 strikeouts, 1.46 ERA), but still has had a terrific couple of months so far with 77 strikeouts and a 1.53 ERA.

Those back-to-back first-half performances are unprecedented for any pitcher since the first All-Star Game in 1933. That’s right, no pitcher (starter or reliever) in that span has entered the break with at least 75 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.60 or lower in back-to-back seasons. Bravo, Betances.

Something to watch for in the second half: Last year Betances set the single-season franchise record for the most strikeouts (135) by a pitcher with zero starts. He’s probably not going to break that record again, but even if he regresses a bit and finishes the year with more modest numbers, he’d do something that no reliever in major-league history has ever done: consecutive seasons with at least 115 strikeouts and a sub-2.00 ERA.

2015 Midseason Review: The Summer of Al (and Mark)

The Yankees came into the season with a ton — and I mean a ton — of questions on the roster. Every team has questions each year, but the Yankees had more than usual. The rotation was littered with injury concerns, the new-look middle infield was somewhat dubious, the bullpen had been overhauled, and the middle of the order was suspect for many reasons. Among those reasons: the uncertainty surrounding Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Al From Miami

Last season Rodriguez served the longest performance-enhancing drug suspension in baseball history, a 162-game ban that was reduced from 211 games after an arduous appeals process that included all sorts of lawsuits. He was 39 years old, he had two surgically repaired hips — Alex only played 44 games in 2013 following hip surgery — and the Yankees wanted pretty much nothing to do with him. The only reason A-Rod remained with the team is the three years and $60M+ left on his contract.

So, when Spring Training opened, there was Alex, in pinstripes and with the Yankees. He offered a handwritten apology to fans, held a press conference to smooth things over with the media, then went about his business to prepare for the season, a season in which no one had any idea what to expect from him. Again, 39 years old! Two bad hips! Almost two full years away from the game! Attempting to predict Rodriguez’s season was futile.

Spring Training was almost too good to be true. A-Rod hit three long home runs in camp, showed a discerning eye at the plate, and even worked out at first base when the team asked. “It doesn’t matter, I am here to play baseball. Whatever (Joe Girardi) wants to do I will do,” said Alex to George King in camp, which wasn’t the first indication he was going to take a team first approach and say all the right things in his return from the suspension.

As good as A-Rod looked in camp, the regular season was going to be a different story. Pitchers weren’t going to be working on things anymore. There weren’t going to be a bunch of minor leaguers pitching in each game. It was time to face big league arms consistently for the first time in close to 20 months. Girardi wasn’t expecting much, so Alex batted seventh on Opening Day. He went 1-for-2 with a single and a walk. Rodriguez batted seventh the next game as well and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Some good, some bad.

The Yankees faced the left-handed Daniel Norris in the third game of the season, so Girardi decided to bump A-Rod up to second in the order, and he responded with a solo homer, his first of the season. Rodriguez batted third against a lefty the next day, went 2-for-5 with a double, and before you knew it, he was the regular No. 3 hitter. Ten games. That’s how long it took Alex to show Girardi he was one of the best hitters on the team and deserved to bat in the middle of the order. Of course, it helps when you do this in the tenth game:

That monster game against the Rays was the “okay, A-Rod’s back” moment. That was the game that, in hindsight, confirmed to everyone Rodriguez still had plenty to offer at the plate and wasn’t going to be a liability, someone the Yankees would have to grit their teeth and live with because the contract left them no choice. A-Rod showed he is an asset.

The A-Bombs have kept coming, 18 of them so far this year, and Rodriguez also climbed into sole possession of fourth place on the all-time home run list. He tied Willie Mays with a game-winning pinch-hit solo home run at Fenway Park on May 1st and passed Mays with a go-ahead solo home run at home against the Orioles six days later. The Yankees declined to pay Rodriguez the $6M milestone bonus they owed him for tying Mays, claiming his PED ties rendered it unmarketable, but eventually the two sides worked out an agreement with a bunch of money going to charity. It was a messy situation that was settled peacefully, thankfully.

At the plate, Rodriguez put up a .278/.382/.515 (148 wRC+) batting line in the first half and has probably been the team’s most consistent hitter. He’s been hovering around the .280/.380/.510 mark since mid-May, and every time it looked like he was about to fall into a slump, Alex climbed out of it relatively quickly. Regular off-days have helped. Opponents have tried throwing fastballs by Rodriguez, which is understandable, but that didn’t work. They tried to get him with breaking balls next, and that didn’t work either.

AVG ISO K%
vs. All Fastballs .307 (.271 MLB avg) .273 (.152 MLB avg) 17.8% (15.9% MLB avg)
vs. 94+ mph Fastballs .267 (.249) .289 (.129) 20.7% (22.1%)
vs. Breaking Balls .217 (.218) .145 (.127) 23.1% (30.5%)

A-Rod is still an all-around hitter who hits for average, draws walks, hits for power, and can handle both the hard and soft stuff. What he is not, however, is a fielder. Those days are over. Rodriguez started two games at third base and one at first base back in April — the start at first base was really awkward, which is understandable for someone who never played the right side of the infield before — and that was it. The Yankees pulled the plug and decided it was best to use Alex as the full-time DH going forward. He’s played 1.2 innings in the field in the last 66 games. That’s all.

Limiting A-Rod to DH has hurt the team’s flexibility, no doubt about it — it would be nice to start him at third base once in a while so Carlos Beltran could serve as the DH — though it has helped keep him fresh and in the lineup, and that’s most important. Is it fair to question his production given his past PED ties? Oh yeah. Alex forfeited the benefit of the doubt a while ago. Either way, he’s gone from question mark to indispensable in the first half. Rodriguez’s surprisingly great first half is a huge reason why the Yankees are in first place.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Gluten-Free For Punishment

It’s easy to forget Teixeira was pretty excellent in the first half last season, hitting .241/.341/.464 (125 wRC+) with 17 home runs before the All-Star break before collapsing to .179/.271/.302 (62 wRC+) with five home runs in the second half. Teixeira was a year removed from wrist surgery and considering how long it took other sluggers like David Ortiz and Jose Bautista to get back to normal following similar injuries in recent years, it sure seemed like Teixeira was still dealing with the lingering effects of surgery.

Of course, no one wanted to hear that excuse, especially since Teixeira’s production and durability had been trending downward since his monster inaugural season in pinstripes back in 2009. Teixeira vowed to get stronger in the offseason — he often said he simply didn’t feel strong at times last year — and adopted a gluten-free diet to make it happen. It sounded like lip service. Players say they’re going to try new things, adopt a new training regime, all that stuff at the end of every season and it rarely amounts to something.

The early returns in Spring Training were unimpressive — Teixeira hit one homer during Grapefruit League play — but it was only Spring Training, so who knows. As soon as the season started though, Teixeira turned into a power-hitting machine, going deep in the team’s third game of the season, then again in their fourth, seventh, 13th, 15th, twice in the 17th, and again in the 18th game. The homers kept coming, and so did the walks — Teixeira hit 14 home runs with 28 walks and 22 strikeouts in his first 44 games of 2015.

The home run pace has slowed — that was inevitable, Teixeira was on pace for 59 homers at the end of April — but Teixeira’s general awesomeness has not. He came into the All-Star break hitting .240/.350/.526 (137 wRC+) with 22 homers, 46 walks, and 56 strikeouts in 82 games, equaling his dinger output for the entire 2014 season. That 137 wRC+ is his best at the break since putting up a 145 wRC+ in the first half of 2007. This is only the second time he’s hit 22+ homers in the first half too, joining 2005 and 2011 (he hit 25 first half homers those years).

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

On top of the offense, Teixeira is also back to playing all-world defense at first base. His defense was good last year but I didn’t think it was as good as it had been in the past, maybe because he was rusty after missing most of 2013. Teixeira appeared tentative at times making throws and it seemed like he bobbled more ground balls than ever before. The numbers kinda back it up too: Teixeira made only 15 out-of-zone plays last year, a career-low in a full season by a mile. (His previous career low was 32 in 2007 and 2012.) This year? He’s at 18 out-of-zone plays already. It’s not just the bat, Teixeira’s glove has rebounded too.

Teixeira was named to the AL All-Star team for his efforts, something that seemed damn near unthinkable the last few years. His production was slipping each year and the injuries continued to mount, so the thought of getting All-Star production from Teixeira was fading by the season. Maybe the gluten-free diet did the trick. I happen to think getting further away from wrist surgery is the biggest factor for Teixeira. He’s just healthier now than he has been in years.

“I’ve had knee surgery, I’ve had ankle surgery, you have little things here and there, shoulders and low back. You can play through all that. The wrist is the hardest thing, by far, I’ve ever had to go through,” said Teixeira to Tyler Kepner recently. Ortiz and Bautista showed how long it can take to return to normal after a tendon sheath injury — it took more than a full year for both of those guys as well. Teixeira is on a similar timetable. The wrist is healthy, his power is back, and Teixeira is once again a middle of the order force for New York.

* * *

A-Rod and Teixeira both far exceeded expectations in the first half, so much so that it’s fair to say both are performing at or close to the best case scenario. Good health, lots of homers, 135+ wRC+s for both guys? Even the most optimistic of fans couldn’t have predicted this. The Summer of Al (and Mark) has given the Yankees the dominant middle of the order they’ve lacked in recent years. Their performances are a major reason why New York has scored the second more runs in baseball in 2015.

Saturday Links: Castro, A-Rod, Draft, Ibanez, Heredia

Starlin ... and Manny! (Presswire)
Starlin … and Manny! (Presswire)

The Yankees and Red Sox continue their three-game series later tonight. So, until then, here are some spare links I had lying around to hold you over.

Start the Starlin Castro rumor mill

According to Jon Heyman, several executive are speculating the Yankees will pursue Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro due to his connection to Jim Hendry, currently a special assistant with New York who was the Cubs GM when the team signed (and called up) Castro. Just to be clear, Heyman is passing along speculation, not a hard rumor that the Yankees are pursuing Castro.

Anyway, I wanted the Yankees to acquire Castro in the offseason to play shortstop, so of course he is hitting .249/.282/.323 (63 wRC+) on the season. (Reminder: Don’t ever listen to me. I’m awful.) Castro is still only 25 though, and he did hit .292/.339/.438 (115 wRC+) just last year, so it’s not like there’s nothing to like here. There’s about $43M left on his contract through 2019 with a club option for 2020.

Castro is seen as a change of scenery guy — the Cubs surely want to put Addison Russell at short — but he’s not a shortstop, his defense is terrible, so maybe the Yankees look at him for second base. If so, the move would probably wait until the offseason. I doubt they’d throw him to the wolves defensively and make him learn second on the fly a la Stephen Drew last year. Either way, my guess is we’ll hear lots more about the Yankees and Castro in the coming weeks and months.

The real cost of A-Rod‘s 3,000th hit ball

Last week, the Yankees agreed to donate $150,000 to Pitch In For Baseball in exchange for Alex Rodriguez‘s 3,000th hit baseball. Noted ballhawk Zack Hample caught the ball and leveraged it into a big fat donation for a charity he supports. Good for him. Of course, there’s much more to this story. Hample told Shawn Anderson the Yanks gave him a ton of other stuff in exchange for the ball as well:

“The Yankees have given me all the things they initially offered, such as meeting A-Rod, doing a press conference at Yankee Stadium, being interviewed live during the game on TV and the radio, and receiving signed memorabilia and free tickets, including tickets to this year’s Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in Cincinnati.” Hample told The Hall exclusively. “I will also have opportunities to write for Yankees Magazine, get a special behind-the-scenes tour to the most restricted areas of the stadium that no one in the public gets to see, get to meet the players, and more. There are certain things I’ve been asked not to talk about, so I need to respect that.”

Geez, that was one mighty valuable baseball, huh? Give Hample props for holding out for the donation rather than taking all that cool free stuff and running. That’s probably what I would have done.

2015 Draft signing updates

Morris. (Indiana Daily Student)
Morris. (Indiana Daily Student)

The signing deadline for the 2015 draft is next Friday, and the Yankees recently signed both UC Santa Barbara C/RHP Paddy O’Brien (24th round) and Indiana RHP Christian Morris (33rd). Morris announced his signing on Twitter while O’Brien is currently listed on the Rookie GCL Yanks2 roster. No word on their bonuses but I assume they didn’t receive more than the $100,000 slot for picks after the tenth round. O’Brien was a catcher in college who the Yankees are apparently going to try on the mound because he has a strong arm.

By my count the Yankees have signed 33 of their 41 draft picks, which is an unusually large number. Teams usually sign something like 25-30 picks each year. The Yankees will make it 34 of 41 when they sign UCLA RHP James Kaprielian (1st) next week — Jim Callis backed up Heyman’s recent report and says Kaprielian will get an overslot bonus in the $3M range — which I’m confident will happen. The Yankees have a bit more than $3M to spend before getting hit with penalties and there’s nowhere else to spend it — the late-round overslot candidates probably aren’t going to sign at this point — so that money either goes to Kaprielian or Hal Steinbrenner.

Rangers sign Andy Ibanez

Earlier this week the Rangers signed free agent Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez to a minor league contract worth $1.6M, reports Jeff Wilson and Jesse Sanchez. Ibanez, 21, was cleared to sign way back in February but took his sweet time picking a team. The Yankees had him in Tampa for a private workout in May and were reportedly interested, though they were unable to offer him anything more than $300,000 once the 2014-15 international signing period ended a few weeks ago. Ibanez is a light hitting second baseman who was expected to get upwards of $15M, though it sounds like teams didn’t value him that highly. You have to think he would have topped $1.6M easily if clubs felt he was as good as the public scouting reports.

Cuban OF Guillermo Heredia cleared to sign

According to Ben Badler and Jesse Sanchez, 24-year-old Cuban outfielder Guillermo Heredia has been unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and declared a free agent by MLB, so he can sign with any team at any time. Heredia is not subject to the international spending restrictions because of his age, so the Yankees and any other team can offer him any amount.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 lbs., Heredia is considered a good defensive center fielder with speed and a strong arm. Badler (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 11th best prospect in Cuba last August and said he has “similarities to a righthanded-hitting version of Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley,” which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement these days. Heredia will work out for scouts soon.

A-Rod’s All-Star Game snub and the Greater Good

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For whatever reason MLB dragged the 2015 All-Star Game rosters announcement across two nights this year, with the starters announced Sunday and the rest of the rosters announced Monday. As expected, no Yankees were selected to start the game for the first time since 1998. All the fan voting updates made it clear that was going to happen.

The reserves announcement on Monday was a little more interesting because the Yankees had five players who were, at the very least, borderline All-Star Game candidates. Dellin Betances and Mark Teixeira were selected for the game, and Brett Gardner is one of five players on the Final Vote ballot (go vote!), but Brian McCann was not one of the two extra catchers selected. So it goes.

The other snub was Alex Rodriguez, who, on merit, belongs in Cincinnati for the All-Star Game. He’s hitting .284/.390/.513 (149 wRC+) with 16 home runs so far this year, and every single other healthy qualified hitter with at least an .890 OPS or a 142 wRC+ was selected to the Midsummer Classic. Not A-Rod though. The players didn’t vote him in and AL manager Ned Yost cited the desire for flexibility, as if he was building a roster for a postseason series and not a one-game exhibition. From Brendan Kuty:

“We talked about A-Rod a lot,” Yost said. “You look back at this five-man vote and we have three infielders, two outfielders, and we felt that it was important that we don’t — we have Brock Holt that can play anywhere in the infield, but any other position we have a starter and a backup. In the outfield we have three starters and three backups. So I just felt very strongly that if we could get another infielder or another outfielder out of that five-man vote it would help us. That’s what went in that decision.”

It’s no surprise the players didn’t vote Alex into the All-Star Game — he’s not exactly popular outside the Yankees clubhouse after his performance-enhancing drug issues and the fact that he, you know, sued the MLBPA last year, so I get it. Yost picked seven players for the roster according to Andy McCullough and opted for five pitchers plus Holt (token Red Sox player) and Russell Martin (third catcher), so he would have had to pick Alex over a pitcher.

Either way, Rodriguez is not going to the All-Star Game and that feels like a loss for everyone, including A-Rod himself. He said he hoped to be picked. MLB is going to miss the ratings boost because people watch this guy — his fans watch to see him mash taters and his haters watch to see him fail — and the AL team will miss having a huge right-handed bat off the bench late in the game. And spare me the PED moralization, Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta were voted in as starters by the fans.

It’s disappointing Alex won’t be in the All-Star Game this year, he deserves to be there based on his performance, but it’s also for the best in the grand scheme of things. Remember, we are talking about a player with two surgically repaired hips (and a surgically repaired knee) who turns 40 later this month. Rodriguez is a full-time DH now yet he still admitted regular days off help him stay fresh. It shows in the numbers too: Alex is hitting .392/.517/.725 in games immediately following a day off and .259/.362/.464 in all other games this season.

“I never welcome days off. I love to play. But it worked pretty well for me in (during the two interleague games in Washington). After those two days off, I swung the bat pretty well at home,” said A-Rod to Wally Matthews a few weeks ago. Rodriguez has played a ton of baseball over the years — he averaged 153 games per season from 1996-2007! — and there’s a lot of wear on his body. That’s baseball. All those games catch up to you and extra rest is needed later in your career. That’s where A-Rod is right now. In need of extra rest. Not more games and travel.

The Yankees are currently atop the AL East but that doesn’t really matter at this point. The division is so tight they could be in fourth place and still be only two games out. A-Rod has gone from a total unknown in Spring Training to a core player this season. He’s at the center of the offense and the Yankees will need him to continue to produce like he has in the first half to have a shot at returning to the postseason. So yeah, Alex not being selected for the All-Star Game is a bummer. But those four days off his feet next week are the best thing for him and the Yankees.

Two Months of Alex

Coming into April of 2015, the range of expectations for Alex Rodriguez wasn’t all that wide. There were essentially two lines of thought regarding how he’d fare coming off of his suspension and various nagging injuries still leftover from 2013 and before. One line of thought was, at least nominally, optimistic: he’d probably do okay because of health and his immense talent as a baseball player. The other was damningly pessimistic: he’d probably embarrass himself because of rust and age. Suffice it to say, Rodriguez has surpassed those expectations. Aside from a few hot weeks by Brett Gardner, A-Rod has arguably been the team’s best and most consistent hitter for all of 2015. He went into yesterday’s games with a line of .284/.390/.508/.898 with 15 home runs, a total few would’ve guessed he’d have through July 4.

Rodriguez’s so far, so great season was largely aided by an absolutely stellar month of May, in which he hit .316/.369/.571 with six homers and five doubles. That power output–marked by a .255 ISO–was his best of the season so far (we’ll have to wait and see what July brings). While June was still successful–a .411 OBP with 18 walks as opposed to the seven free passes he got in May–it was his “worst” in terms of power, indicated by a .168 ISO. That number is definitely still good, but after what he did in May, June was a slight let down.

In terms of the way pitchers approached Alex, May and June were fairly similar. He faced about the same amount of fastballs and changeups, though there was an uptick in sinkers against him in June, which is actually where we can find some of the swooning power. Taking a look at his results, Rodriguez performed well against sinkers in May. While he had an ISO of just .105 against them, that stings a lot less when you’re hitting .316 against a given pitch type. In June, however, both of those numbers fell off the table. The increase in sliders–85 in May, 112 in June–led to a lower batting average, .208, and a nonexistent ISO of .000. A similar decrease occurred in the changeup category as well. During May, Rodriguez hit just .250 against the 41 changeups he saw, but he crushed the ones he did put in play to a .750 SLG and a .500 ISO. Once again in June, A-Rod hit .250 against changeups, but this time, his hits against the pitch only went for singles.

Anecdotally this year, we’ve watched A-Rod crush fastballs and hard stuff while struggling against breaking balls and other soft pitches. This runs contrary to what we may’ve thought coming into the year–time off could mean diminished bat speed, etc.–but it’s been fairly true and was fleshed out in both his best and “worst” power months. In both May (.375 AVG; .679 SLG; .304 ISO) and June (.333/.536/.222), he’s demolished fastballs and struggled a bit against breaking pitches–averages of .188 and .192 respectively, as well as SLGs/ISOs of .313/.125 and .308/.115. May saw Alex rip offspeed pitches (.400/.800/.400), but that didn’t happen in June: .222/.222/.000.

Regardless of the power drop-off from May to June, June was still a great month and Al from Miami has had a great season; there is little, if anything, to fret or complain about. He’s been a great hitter; he’s taken to the DH role well; he’s said and done all the right things. Here’s hoping he can continue this great year into the second half, and hopefully, into the playoffs.

Saturday Links: A-Rod, Sierra, High-Def, Benefits, Girardi

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Rays continue their three-game series with an Independence Day matinee at Yankee Stadium later today. Here are some links to help you pass the time until the game.

A-Rod wants to make the All-Star team

The All-Star Game rosters will be announced soon — the starters will be announced tomorrow night, the rest of the rosters Monday night — and Alex Rodriguez told Andrew Marchand he hopes to be selected for the Midsummer Classic. “From where I came from just a year ago — I mean it’s every player’s dream to make the All-Star Game, I’m not exception to that, especially with all that I’ve been through — to be able to be included in something like that, it would be incredibly special,” said Alex.

As productive as he’s been this season, I don’t think A-Rod will be selected for the All-Star Game. Kendrys Morales is running away with the fan voting for the DH slot and both Nelson Cruz and Prince Fielder have better All-Star cases than Alex. (Cruz has actually played more outfield than DH this year.) You can only carry so many DH types on the roster. Oh well. A-Rod will turn 40 later this month and he could probably use the four days off to recharge his batteries. He’s been to 14 All-Star Games anyway.

Cuban RHP Yasiel Sierra threw for scouts

Time to meet the latest Cuban player the Yankees won’t sign. According to Kiley McDaniel, 23-year-old Cuban right-hander Yasiel Sierra threw for scouts yesterday and is generating positive buzz. McDaniel likens Sierra to Reds righty Raisel Iglesias, who signed a seven-year contract worth $30M last June. Sierra worked mostly as a reliever in Cuba and had a 3.74 ERA with 166/135 K/BB in 238 career innings before defecting. He is not subject to the international spending restrictions due to his age, so the Yankees can offer him any amount despite the penalties stemming from last year’s spending spree. I know nothing about Sierra beyond what’s in this post, but I suspect we’ll read his name a few more times in the coming weeks.

Yankees to be first team shot in 8K ultra-high def technology

I’m not a big technology guy, so I don’t quite know what this means, but Maury Brown reports the Yankees-Mariners game at Yankee Stadium on July 17th will be the first game shot in 8K ultra-high definition. Apparently 4K high-def is just making its way to consumers now. The 8K broadcast of the Yanks-Ms game won’t be available for fans though — Japanese public broadcaster NHK will install the cameras and show the broadcast to the media in a suite at the game. They’re testing the technology for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. (Might be time to take to advantage of my BBWAA membership!) Either way, I’m sure 8K will be available for fans soon enough, and it’ll blow all our minds.

Dugas. (MLB.com)
Dugas. (MLB.com)

Benefits to being on the MLB roster

A few days ago the Yankees surprisingly called up outfielder Taylor Dugas just so he could sit on the bench while Carlos Beltran was dealing with a sore ribcage. Sitting on the bench knowing you’re going to sent back down in a few days stinks — Dugas was sent down yesterday, sure enough — but being added to the 40-man roster and spending even one day in MLB comes with major perks, as MLBPA director of communications Greg Borris explained to Brendan Kuty.

First and foremost, the player gets the pro-rated portion of the $507,500 minimum salary, which works out to $2,773.22 per day during the regular season. Dugas was making approximately that per month in the minors. Players are also entitled to a portion of the MLBPA’s licensing program revenue (baseball cards, video games, etc.) and they start accruing service time towards pension benefits. And finally, the big thing is health care for them and their families. They get access to the league’s high-quality yet affordable health care program for life after just one day in the show. Getting called up for a day might sound disappointing, but man, the benefits are as good as it gets.

Cashman on long-term deals, scout on Girardi

Going to wrap this up with a pair of quotes that caught my eye earlier this week. First, here is Brian Cashman talking to Marchand about long-term contracts:

“Money doesn’t always equate to performance,” Cashman acknowledged. “In fact, most of the time it will never equate. That’s the cost of doing business. Signing a player to a long-term contract is like buying a car. They don’t tend to get better with age, and the ones that do are probably cheating.”

Ain’t that the truth. The Yankees have several bad long-term contracts on the books right now but it’s clear they’re willing to live with the ugly back end for the production up front, or at least they were at one point. These days it seems like teams get fewer high-end years early in long-term contracts though. They’re the Yankees though, they’re never going to not be involved with big name players, and Cashman understands they tend to be really bad investments.

Now here is an anonymous scout speaking to Jerry Crasnick about Joe Girardi:

“I don’t care what anybody says: It’s hard to manage [in New York]. It’s a zoo. You couldn’t pay me enough to manage there. I don’t know if he’s a top-five manager. But Girardi doesn’t get enough credit for the job he does.”

I think Girardi is an average-ish in-game manager. He’s very good at keeping his relievers fresh and putting them in positions to succeed, but he does slave to platoon matchups and is a little too rigid with his pitcher-inning assignments. That makes him no different than any other manager though.

Girardi really seems to do well with limiting distractions and running a healthy clubhouse, which is something we as outsiders can’t possibly understand or appreciate. The A-Rod stuff could have been a total fiasco for example, yet it’s blown over and been a non-factor. You never hear about players being unhappy — example: Adam Warren going to the bullpen — and stuff like that. On-field decisions are just a small part of a manager’s job. Most of their responsibility is in the clubhouse managing personalities, and the fact that things are so quite around the Yankees (the Yankees!) suggests Girardi is a great manager of people.