Archive for Alfredo Aceves
Via Sweeny Murti, Joe Girardi indicated that Al Aceves‘ back is still an issue, and that he expects the righty to be placed on the disabled list. Marc Carig adds that he has a bulging disc in his back and is returning to New York, presumably for tests. My grandfather had a bulging disc in his back a few years ago, and all I remember was that he basically couldn’t do anything until he had surgery to correct it. Pretty painful and debilitating.
The Yankees also have yet to call up Juan Miranda despite indications that he was on his way to join the team. Considering the timing of this whole thing, it sounds like they were going to option out a pitcher for Miranda, but with Aceves’ back continuing to be an issue, they’re going to hold off and keep the extra arm around for another night.
Update by Mike (8:46pm): Aceves will be out for two or three days, which isn’t all that bad. Phew.
6:51pm: The injury bug continues to bite the Yankees. While pitching in the bottom of the sixth, Alfredo Aceves finished his delivery awkwardly and injured himself. The team has yet to announce what happened, but Joe Girardi and the trainers pulled the versatile reliever without hesitation. We’ll update this post as news comes in.
The Yankees suffered a rash of minor injuries in the final week of camp, but they’ll have everyone available when the season begins tomorrow night. To put it succinctly, Jorge Posada‘s stiff neck is fine, Nick Johnson‘s bruised knee is better, Damaso Marte‘s shoulder isn’t cranky, and Al Aceves lower back is a-okay. Frankie Cervelli‘s sore hamstring is good to go as well, and he’ll be available off the bench. Thankfully everyone’s healthy, and the Yanks can start the season with everyone intact.
Earlier today we found out that Damaso Marte has a cranky shoulder, but that’s not the extent of the Yankees’ injury woes. Nick Johnson left today’s game in the first inning after fouling a pitch of his right knee, and has been diagnosed with a bone bruise. He won’t do anything tomorrow, but is confident that he’ll be in the lineup Sunday night against the Red Sox. After battling a sore lower back, Al Aceves threw an inning in a minor league game today and felt fine, but the team is going to wait and see how he feels tomorrow before determining his status for the regular season opener.
Last but certainly not least, the Yankees’ top three catchers all appear to be on the mend. Jorge Posada‘s stiff neck is doing well and there’s a chance he’ll play tomorrow, while Frankie Cervelli‘s hamstring feels better. He won’t play tomorrow, but caught in the bullpen and took some swings in batting practice today. Third string Mike Rivera started today for the first time in two weeks after dealing with a hamstring of his own, and he even picked up a hit to raise his spring average to .167. Minor bumps and bruises all around, let’s just be thankful it’s nothing more serious.
As the Yankees wrap up camp, a few players are dealing with some various aches and pains that come with Spring Training. I have some brief updates on three players bound for the 25-man roster who are all recovering from injuries. Mark Teixeira got hit on the elbow by a Jeremy Guthrie pitch earlier this week. X-Rays were negative, and after sitting out a few days and getting treatment on the bruise, he is scheduled to be back in the lineup today. Back-up catcher Francisco Cervelli has what the team is calling a minor Grade 1 hamstring strain. He probably won’t play again during the Grapefruit League, but the Yanks do not anticipate putting him on the DL to start the season. Finally, Alfredo Aceves is set to test his balky back in a game tomorrow. How he responds to pitching will determine the composition of the Opening Day bullpen.
Via Anthony DiComo, Al Aceves is battling a lower back issue and won’t make his scheduled pitching appearance tomorrow. The team will keep an eye on him before determining his status for Opening Day. Aceves also missed a total of nine days last August with lower back soreness, so this is something worth monitoring. Boone Logan is the logical candidate to take his place in the bullpen should he miss any time.
Is it too late to get Chad Gaudin back?
Via the Winnipeg Free Press, the Yankees have agreed to terms with their pre-arbitration eligible players, meaning guys with less than three years of service time. There’s 18 players in all, but the notables include Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Al Aceves, David Robertson, and Brett Gardner. No word on the money, but they’re all close to the $400,000 league minimum I’m sure. Joba and Hughes might be over $500,000 by now, and both will be looking at seven figures in their first year of arbitration eligibility in 2011.
It’s sometimes hard to believe that Alfredo Aceves, the forgotten man out of Spring Training who didn’t arrive in the Bronx until May last year, finished with the fourth most wins on the Yankees. He always seemed to enter the game at exactly the right time, and he ended up with 10 wins and just one loss.
In many respects, Alfredo Aceves’ 2009 campaign helps highlight a lot of statistical platitudes about pitching. Relief wins are rather meaningless when some of them come in extra innings and others are brought about by virtue of long relief, multiple-inning appearances. He did, as Steve Lombardi wrote at Was Watching over the weekend, vulture his wins.
As a Posnanskian aside, Aceves’ 2009 splits also show how pitchers’ numbers respond to luck. In the first half, he threw 43.1 innings, allowed 34 hits, walked nine and struck out 7.5 per 9 IP. His ERA was 2.49. In the second half, he threw 40.2 innings, allowed 35 hits, walked eight and struck out 7.3 per 9 IP. Despite allowing fewer home runs and sporting a WHIP just 0.065 higher in the second half, his ERA over those 40.2 innings sat at 4.65. Luck changed, and his ERA settled in at a respectable 3.54 for the season.
Basically, Aceves was an above-average reliever, Lombardi says, who won more games than he probably should have. As Steve rightly points out, the odds of Aceves doing that again are slim, and he says, “Let’s hope the Yankees aren’t banking a repeat of this from Aceves this season.”
Now, I don’t wish to denigrate Alfredo Aceves. He turned in a very respectable season for the Yanks after spending a month at AAA. He had a WXRL of 2.522 and an ARP of 12.9. By many respects, he was the Yanks’ third most valuable reliever in 2009 due to his high innings total and relatively high-leverage usage. He can get a ground ball; he can get a K; he can throw short stints or make long appearances. All in all, he’s a very good guy to have.
But the Yankees know Aceves’ limitations as well. His shoulder started barking in late July, and he seemed to hit a mid-summer wall. He was not very consistent in limited October use and, as any pitcher, fares better against less patient hitters. How will the Yanks use him in 2010?
Well, from the start, Aceves will see his spot on the depth charts bumped down a bit. The Yankees will, in all likelihood, head into 2010 with Mariano Rivera as the closer, either Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain as the primary setup man, David Robertson as the go-to strike out guy, Damaso Marte as the lefty specialist and Chad Gaudin as the primary long reliever. Aceves stands to be the sixth guy out of the pen and the Yanks’ seventh or eighth starter.
In the end, the Mexican Gangster adds some depth the Yankees’ bullpen. He does a good job of keeping hitters off base and generally keeps the ball in the park. He’s versatile and adopted well to different roles. With Javier Vazquez around, the improvement to Yanks’ pitching staff trickles down the bullpen, and the team should, if all goes according to plan, not need Aceves to swoop in and nab those vulture wins this year.
Above: Al Aceves pitches against the Orioles in July. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Over the next week or so, we’ll again break down what went wrong and what went right for the 2009 Yankees. The series this year will be much more enjoyable than the last.
The Yankees came into 2009 feeling good about their bullpen. After all, the same cast of characters posted the seventh lowest ERA (3.79), second lowest FIP (3.82), second best strikeout rate (8.66 K/9), and tenth best walk rate (3.53 BB/9) in the league last year. Unfortunately, that group of relievers was unable to repeat that performance in the first month of this season. Their FIP in April was awful (5.41) and their ERA even worse (6.46), and it was a major reason why the team was in third place with a negative run differential on May 1st.
Thankfully, the Yanks had enough bullpen depth to not just replace one or two pieces, but to make wholesale changes. The first step in the makeover came on April 25th, when Phil Hughes was summoned from Triple-A to take over for the injured Chien-Ming Wang. Al Aceves replaced the overmatched Anthony Claggett on May 5th, and David Robertson took the place of the injured Brian Bruney three weeks later. Edwar Ramirez and his 33 baserunners allowed (6 homer!) in 17.1 IP was banished to the minors mid-May, and Jose Veras was mercifully designated for assignment a little later on.
After allowing three earned runs or less in five of his seven starts, Hughes shifted to the bullpen in early June to make way for Wang. He became the primary setup man to Mariano Rivera in short order, allowing everyone else in the bullpen to settle into roles more suitable for their skills. Hughes held opponents to a .172-.228-.228 batting line as a reliever, posting a ridiculous 65-13 K/BB ratio and an unfathomable 1.83 FIP after moving to the bullpen.
Aceves, meanwhile, became Joe Girardi‘s jack of all trades. He was used in long relief, short relief, in matchup situations, you name it. He allowed less than a baserunner per inning, and his 80.2 IP as a reliever was the most by a Yankee since Scott Proctor’s 100.2 IP back in 2006. Aceves effectively bridged the middle innings gap from the starter to Phil Hughes all by himself.
Most teams would be happy with a pair of guys like Hughes and Aceves in their bullpen, but the Yankees didn’t stop there. Rookie David Robertson developed from promising prospect into a bullpen force, leading all American League pitchers by striking out 12.98 batters per 9 IP (the second place guy, Joakim Soria, was more than a full strikeout behind him).
Once all of the new pieces were in place, the Yankee bullpen went from weakness in April to strength the rest of the way. They finished the year with a solid 3.91 ERA, and placed second in the league in strikeout rate (8.44 K/9) and third in walk rate (3.46 BB/9). The names had to be changed, but Girardi’s bullpen once again finished the season as one of the strongest in the game.
When Alfredo Aceves made an emergency start on July 9 in Minnesota, he did so under a strict pitch count, and he quickly reached his 65-pitch limit. For Aceves, it wasn’t a season high. That total came in his season debut when he threw 70 pitches against the Red Sox on May 4. It was, however, a recent high at the time, and he hasn’t approached that figure since early July.
In the three weeks leading up to that start, he threw five and nine pitches on back-to-back days, had two days off and then threw 43 pitches. He enjoyed another two-day rest before throwing 33 pitches. Then he had four full days off and threw five and 35 pitches before a two-day stint on the bench. On July 5, four days prior to his start, he threw 43 pitches.
Since July 9, we’ve heard a lot about Aceves’ various physical ailments. In late July, he spoke of a sore shoulder, and he hasn’t been as effective after the All Star Break as he was before. Many pixels have been burned discussing Aceves’ usage and health, and late last week, Mike looked at how Aceves has had few clunkers that inflate his numbers. As Ace has been outpitching his FIP all season, Mike noted, this period of mediocrity could just be the ever-popular market correction.
After his poor outing against the Red Sox on Sunday, Aceves spoke to reporters about his well-being, and as Peter Abraham reported, Aceves is feeling banged up. “I think my body is adjusting,” he said of relieving.
Aceves had been a starter for his entire Mexican League career and last year with the Yankees. This is the first year he has pitched out of the bullpen, and according to Abraham, Aceves feel it has “taken a physical toll.” After recovering from his sore shoulder, Aceves is now dealing with a sore lower back. “It’s not perfect, but I can pitch,” Aceves said to The Journal-News reporter. “This is my job now. I think I’m going to be fine.”
While the Yankees, on a micro level, need Aceves’ versatile down the stretch, on a macro level, his complaints provide a glimpse into the world of starters-turned-relievers. As Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain have shown, good pitchers make for great relievers. It’s easier for a pitcher to use his best pitches in short stints. He doesn’t have to mix and match to fool hitters during the second or third time through the lineup.
Yet, that transition is not without its risks. For starters used to the physical toll of a five-man rotation — start, ice, rest, throw day, rest, start — life in the bullpen is of a different nature. Pitchers have to prepare to go long but may faced with a five-pitch or nine-pitching outing. They may get the call on consecutive days or on opposite ends of a calendar week.
As the Yankees confront the reality of Phil Hughes in the bullpen and Joba Chamberlain in the starting rotation, the coaches and training staff are well aware of the physical toll of relief work. It’s why they don’t want to put Joba in the bullpen to cap his innings. How they handle Aceves down the stretch should provide a glimpse into how they plan to approach Phil Hughes’ transition back to the rotation next year. Meanwhile, with a seven-game lead and a Magic Number of 32, the Yanks can afford to rest Ace as his physical ailments require. Better now than in October.