4/7 to 4/9 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

At long last, the Yankees have escaped Florida. Aside from that quick little one-day trip to Atlanta for the exhibition game at SunTrust Park last week, the Yankees have been stuck in the Tampa area since mid-February. They’re now in Baltimore for a three-game weekend set against the Orioles. After that, the first home stand of the season. Thank goodness.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Orioles had an even wonkier schedule than the Yankees this week. They opened the season with a little two-game series against the Blue Jays at Camden Yards. They played Monday, had an off-day Tuesday, played Wednesday, then had another off-day Thursday. What is that? Good grief. The O’s won both games against the Blue Jays, including the first on a Mark Trumbo walk-off home run.

Offense & Defense

Davis. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Davis. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Fightin’ Showalters have scored six runs in their two games so far, and in typical Orioles fashion, four of those six runs have come on home runs. Adam Jones hit a two-run shot while Trumbo and Chris Davis hit solo homers. Here are the numbers so far and each player’s 2017 ZiPS projection:

2017 Stats 2017 ZiPS Projection
C Welington Castillo 3-for-7 (.429), 1 2B .243/.304/.421 (91 wRC+), 17 HR
1B Chris Davis 2-for-8 (.250), 1 HR .239/.334/.509 (121 wRC+), 39 HR
2B Jonathan Schoop 1-for-7 (.143) .264/.297/.453 (97 wRC+), 22 HR
SS J.J. Hardy 0-for-7 .249/.287/.368 (71 wRC+), 10 HR
3B Manny Machado 2-for-7 (.286) .289/.349/.511 (127 wRC+), 32 HR
LF Hyun Soo Kim 0-for-3 .294/.370/.434 (117 wRC+), 11 HR
CF Adam Jones 2-for-8 (.250), 1 2B, 1 HR .267/.304/.450 (97 wRC+), 27 HR
RF Seth Smith 1-for-4 (.250), 1 2B .252/.341/.434 (107 wRC+), 14 HR
DH Mark Trumbo 2-for-8 (.250), 1 2B, 1 HR .251/.307/.491 (109 wRC+), 32 HR
BENCH
C Caleb Joseph N/A .227/.274/.358 (65 wRC+), 9 HR
UTIL Ryan Flaherty N/A .217/.288/.357 (70 wRC+), 7 HR
OF Joey Rickard 0-for-5 .244/.314/.334 (75 wRC+), 4 HR
OF Craig Gentry 0-for-2 .216/.280/.264 (52 wRC+), 1 HR
1B/OF Trey Mancini 1-for-4 (.250) .263/.314/.436 (98 wRC+), 21 HR

Like the Yankees, the Orioles are using early season off-days to skip their fifth starter. They have three off-days within the first nine days of the season and four off-days within the first 16 days of the season. Geez. Unlike the Yankees though, the Orioles are using the extra roster spot to carry a fifth bench player, not an eighth reliever. The only position player they’re missing is outfielder Anthony Santander, a Rule 5 Draft pick who is on the disabled list with an elbow injury.

Baltimore has played two games and they’ve faced one right-handed starter and one left-handed starter. They’re platooning the left-handed hitting Kim and Smith with the right-handed hitting Rickard and Mancini. Smith and Rickard hit leadoff in the two games, then the thunder followed in the two through five spots: Jones, Machado, Davis, Trumbo. Yikes. Schoop and Hardy have hit eighth and ninth, respectively, in both games so far.

The Orioles are going to hit a ton of home runs this season. That’s what they do. They will not, however, steal bases. This is largely the same roster as last season — the only notable changes are Castillo in for Matt Wieters and Smith in for Pedro Alvarez — and last year the O’s stole 19 bases total. 19! Rickard led the club with four. Gentry can fly and he’s a quality pinch-running option. Otherwise this is a station-to-station team that lives and dies with its power.

On defense, Baltimore is very good to great all around the infield — Davis doesn’t get enough credit for being a good defensive first baseman — and mediocre to bad in the outfield regardless of who is in the corners. Jones is still a decent center fielder but he has started to lose a step. Gentry is, far and away, the best outfield defender on the roster, and his bat makes him a bench player only. Castillo is a pretty good thrower behind the plate.

Pitching Matchups

Gausman. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Gausman. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (vs. NYY)
I still do not understand using Ubaldo before Zach Britton in the AL Wildcard Game last season. I don’t understand it and I never will. Jimenez, now 33, had a typical Ubaldo Jimenez season in 2016: 5.44 ERA (4.43 FIP) with 19.6% strikeouts, 11.3% walks, and 49.0% grounders in 142.1 innings. Actually, that’s a bit worse than a typical Ubaldo season. Makes the Wildcard Game decision even more confusing. Last season Jimenez worked right around 90 mph with both his two and four-seam fastballs, and his go-to secondary pitch is a low-80s splitter. He also throws a mid-80s slider and a mid-70s curveball. Ubaldo is cut from the same cloth as Michael Pineda. Every once in a while he’ll come out and dominate, but most of the time he’ll leave you frustrated.

Saturday (4pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (vs. NYY)
The O’s have so many early off-days that they can skip not only their fifth starter, but their fourth starter too. Gausman got the ball on Opening Day and he’ll get the ball in the fourth game of the season as well. The 26-year-old right-hander held the Blue Jays to two runs in 5.1 innings in his season debut Monday. Last season he had a 3.61 ERA (4.10 FIP) in 179.2 innings and good gravy, Gausman dominated the Yankees in six starts: 41 IP, 33 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 6 BB, 35 K, 2 HR. That’s a 1.10 ERA and 2.51 FIP. He shut them down every time out. Gausman is a three-pitch pitcher with a mid-to-upper-90s fastball and a knockout mid-to-upper-80s splitter. A low-80s slider is his third pitch. Hopefully all the new faces in the lineup will help the Yankees avoid being dominated by Gausman again this summer.

Sunday (1:30pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. BAL) vs. TBA
Officially, the O’s are listing this rotation spot as TBA. It will be Wade Miley, however. He is currently on the 10-day disabled list with flu-like symptoms, which is total garbage and just a way for the team to manipulate the roster. It allowed them to carry an extra player for a few days. Miley will be activated for Sunday’s start. He threw an 87-pitch simulated game Tuesday to get ready. Yeah. Miley, 30, was terrible overall last season (5.37 ERA and 4.45 FIP) and somehow even worse with the Orioles (6.17 ERA and 3.79 FIP) than the Mariners (4.98 ERA and 4.76 FIP) after coming over in a midseason trade. His overall strikeout (19.3%), walk (6.9%), and grounder (47.3%) rates were okay. At this point of his career Miley works right around 90 mph with his two and four-seam fastballs, in the mid-80s with his slider and changeup, and in the mid-70s with his curveball. The one thing that always stands out to me about Miley starts are how quickly he works. He gets the ball and is ready to throw. He puts the pressure on the batter to be in the box and ready to swing.

Bullpen Status

Okay, I kinda lied earlier. The Orioles are carrying both a fifth bench player and an eighth reliever. The Miley disabled list move makes that possible. So far Buck Showalter has only had to use four of his bullpen arms. Here are the real numbers and the fake projections:

Role 2017 Stats 2017 ZiPS
LHP Zach Britton
Closer 3 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K 2.25 ERA (2.27 FIP)
RHP Brad Brach
Setup 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K 3.04 ERA (3.38 FIP)
RHP Darren O’Day
Setup N/A 2.76 ERA (3.58 FIP)
RHP Mychal Givens
Middle 1.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K 2.95 ERA (3.11 FIP)
LHP Donnie Hart
Middle N/A 3.45 ERA (3.88 FIP)
LHP Vidal Nuno
Middle N/A 3.77 ERA (4.14 FIP)
RHP Tyler Wilson
Long 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K 4.96 ERA (4.77 FIP)
RHP Oliver Drake Long N/A 3.81 ERA (3.76 FIP)

Britton’s had a tough go of it early on. I watched his two outings and he was struggling to locate both times. He missed some time with an oblique issue in Spring Training and it seems like he’s still trying to get locked in with his command. Brach, O’Day, and Givens are a nice little trio of righties and they each have a different look. It’s not like you’re going to see a parade of fastball-slider guys out of the bullpen.

Both the Yankees and Orioles had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpens are well-rested. Checkout our Bullpen Workload page anyway.

Yankees trade Richard Bleier to the Orioles

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today the Yankees announced they have traded lefty Richard Bleier to the Orioles for cash or a player to be named later. There are now 66 players in big league camp. Bleier was designated for assignment last week to make room on the 40-man roster for Chris Carter.

Bleier, 29, joined the Yankees as a minor league free agent last winter and he made his MLB debut last summer. He threw 23 relief innings with a 1.96 ERA (2.76 FIP) for New York while spending most of the season in Triple-A. I’m surprised he stayed on the 40-man as long as he did. Soon-to-be 30-year-old rookies usually don’t stick around long.

I wouldn’t spend much time thinking about the player to be named later. It won’t be an actual prospect. It never is in these situations. Chances are the Yankees will end up taking the cash anyway. That’s usually how it goes. At least they were able to get something in return for Bleier rather than lose him on waivers for nothing.

Now that he’s with the Orioles, expect Bleier to get a big out against the Yankees at some point this season. Folks will then complain they let him go. “Why can’t the Yankees get pitchers like that?” they’ll say. Thank you for your time.

Potential trade partners for Brett Gardner dwindling due to hot stove activity

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees right now are very much open to trading pricey veterans for prospects. They sold big time at the deadline and continued selling in the offseason by sending Brian McCann to the Astros for two Single-A pitching prospects. The Yankees have reportedly dangled Brett Gardner and Chase Headley in trade talks this winter, and I’m sure they’d love to move Jacoby Ellsbury too, but, you know.

Two teams that stood out as obvious suitors for Gardner addressed their outfield needs last week. The Nationals traded for Adam Eaton and the Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler. Both clubs needed a defensively competent center fielder — Gardner plays left for the Yankees in deference to Ellsbury, but he could still handle center full-time, no problem — and a top of the order on-base guy. The Nats and Cards went in another direction.

Gardner is a good player, not a great one, and the two years and $23M left on his contract is not unreasonable. And besides, the Yankees have shown a willingness to eat money to facilitate trades. They did it with Carlos Beltran at the deadline and McCann a few weeks ago. Salary shouldn’t be a problem. The problem is finding a team that actually needs Gardner, a defense first outfielder with on-base skills. Here are the remaining potential trade partners I came up with.

Baltimore Orioles

Adam Jones needs some help. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Adam Jones needs some help. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Current Outfield: Adam Jones in center and Hyun-Soo Kim in left, with Joey Rickard and Rule 5 Draft picks Anthony Santander and Aneury Tavarez candidates for right. They also have the option of moving Chris Davis to right field and playing prospect Trey Mancini at first.

Why Would They Want Gardner? He’s a heck of a lot better than Rickard and the Rule 5 Draft kids — Santander has never played above High-A — and he’d give the O’s a legitimate leadoff hitter, something they really lack. Jones was their leadoff hitter most of this past season. Yeah. Also, the Orioles have an opening at DH, remember. They could put Gardner in left, Kim at DH (where he fits best), and stick with the kids in right.

So Are They A Fit? Yes with the caveat that they’re an AL East rival, and intradivision trades are rare. I don’t think that closes the door completely, it just makes it unlikely. For what it’s worth, Brian Cashman told Bryan Hoch he’d have no problem trading with the Orioles.

“If I can trade with the Red Sox and the Mets, I can trade with the Orioles. I can trade with anybody. If it’s in our best interest, whether it’s short- or long-term, it doesn’t matter what the other teams get. Does it make sense for us? If it happens to be them, I don’t really care.”

What do the O’s have to offer the Yankees for Gardner? Geez, beats me. Their farm system isn’t in great shape (here’s their MLB.com top 30 prospects list) and I doubt they’d be willing to give up pieces from their big league roster. I’m sure the Yankees could find some combination of minor leaguers to make it work though.

Cleveland Indians

Current Outfield: Tyler Naquin in center and Lonnie Chisenhall in right. Brandon Guyer and Abe Almonte are expected to hold down left field until Michael Brantley returns from shoulder surgery.

Why Would They Want Gardner? Not too many reasons at this point. The Indians seem focused on adding a big middle of the order bat to share first base and DH with Carlos Santana, and I suppose if those plans go awry, they could circle back and import Gardner to be part of a rotating DH system. He’d give them a more traditional leadoff hitter too. They used Santana at leadoff most of last season, which was somewhat a waste of his power because he batted with fewer men on base.

So Are They A Fit? Nah, I don’t think so. Naquin had a nightmare postseason but a very good regular season, good enough to finish third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting and earn a starting spot in 2017. They’ll ride it out with Almonte and Guyer until Brantley returns, which could be as soon as April.

Detroit Tigers

Current Outfield: Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez on the corners, with Anthony Gose and JaCoby Jones in the mix for center. Tyler Collins could get a crack at the job too, though he’s best in a corner.

Why Would They Want Gardner? Gardner is much better than the group of players vying for Detroit’s center field job at the moment. Of course, the Tigers traded away Cameron Maybin earlier this winter, and they seem to be scaling back on payroll a bit. Salary dumping Maybin only to turn around and acquire Gardner would be a bit weird, don’t you think?

Of course, plans change, and the Tigers are looking at a more winnable AL Central right now. The Twins stink, the White Sox are selling, and the Royals might have to sell at the deadline since basically their entire core will hit free agency next winter. The Tigers won 86 games in 2016 despite going 4-14 (4-14!) against the Indians. What are the odds of that happening again? Small. Gardner would improve their chances in a much more winnable division.

So Are They A Fit? Maybe! I think the Yankees would have to eat money to make a trade happen, which I doubt would be a deal-breaker. If the Yankees ate money to trade Beltran and McCann, I’m sure they’d do the same for Gardner.

Oakland Athletics

Jake Smolinski was the A's everyday center fielder in the second half. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)
Jake Smolinski was the A’s everyday center fielder in the second half. For reals. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)

Current Outfield: Some combination of Khris Davis, Matt Joyce, Brett Eibner, and Jake Smolinski. Did you know Khris Davis hit 42 home runs in 2016? True story.

Why Would They Want Gardner? The A’s are in the market for a center fielder this offseason, it’s been reported everywhere, and they’ve most recently been connected to Jarrod Dyson of the Royals. Gardner is a very similar player (lefty hitting leadoff type with speed and defense) who happens to be much more expensive. But again, if the Yankees are willing to eat money, his contract may not be an obstacle.

So Are They A Fit? Maybe. The Athletics are a weird team that seems to be stuck between going for it and rebuilding. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they traded for an outfielder making $23M over the next two years despite losing at least 93 games the last two seasons. They’re weird like that.

San Francisco Giants

Current Outfield: Denard Span in center and Hunter Pence in right, with Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker slated to platoon in left. Gorkys Hernandez has a leg up on a bench job.

Why Would They Want Gardner? Left field is wide open. Williamson and Parker did an okay job as platoon partners while Pence was on the disabled list this summer — they hit a combined .230/.338/.402 with eleven homers in 278 plate appearances in 2016, but also struck out 28.5% of the time — though neither is a long-term building block. Williamson is the young one at 26. Parker turns 28 in three weeks.

Gardner would, at a minimum, give the Giants an above-average defender for that spacious left field at AT&T Park. In also guessing he’d outproduce a Williamson/Parker platoon at the plate over a full 162-game season. The Mark Melancon signing pushed San Francisco over the luxury tax threshold and they don’t want to go much higher, so Gardner’s contract could be an issue. Then again, the Giants are built to win right now, while Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner are still in their primes, and left field is a sore spot.

So Are They A Fit? Yes, definitely. The Giants have enough prospects to cobble together a trade package (here is their MLB.com top 30 prospects list) and the Yankees could eat money to make things work on San Francisco’s end with regards to the luxury tax. The Giants are a fit. A great fit. No doubt.

Seattle Mariners

Current Outfield: Leonys Martin in the middle with some combination of Seth Smith, Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia, Mitch Haniger, and possibly even Danny Valencia in the corners.

Why Would They Want Gardner? As an alternative to that hodgepodge of platoon veterans and mid-range prospects slated for the corners. The Mariners are trying to win right now. I mean, they should be. Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz aren’t going to be this productive forever, so anything Seattle can do to improve their short-term chances qualifies as a good move in my book. Gardner represents an upgrade.

So Are They A Fit? Yes in theory, no in reality. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has said his team is too left-handed at the moment, which Gardner would only exacerbate. Also, they seem committed to playing those kids in the outfield. So while there is a fit on paper here, I don’t see it happening.

Texas Rangers

Mystery Rangers outfielder. (Rick Yeatts/Getty)
Mystery Rangers outfielder. (Rick Yeatts/Getty)

Current Outfield: Carlos Gomez in center, Shin-Soo Choo in right, and Nomar Mazara in left. Delino DeShields Jr. and Ryan Rua are the depth options.

Why Would They Want Gardner? The Rangers have no first baseman or designated hitter at the moment. Adding Gardner would allow them to slide Mazara over to right field, his natural position, and put Choo at DH full-time, which is where he belongs at this point. Texas has money and prospects to trade, plus an obvious opening for Gardner in the lineup and on the field.

So Are They A Fit? Yes. Whether the Rangers are willing to make a trade is another matter. They may prefer to hang on to their prospects and address those first base and DH openings through free agency. There are still plenty of those players available.

Toronto Blue Jays

Current Outfield: lol

Why Would They Want Gardner? Kevin Pillar is still the center fielder. That much is clear. But after losing out on Fowler, the Blue Jays have Melvin Upton, Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, and Dalton Pompey penciled in as their corner outfielders. That might be the worst outfield unit in baseball. Gardner would give them a legitimate left fielder and leadoff hitter, allowing them to slide Devon Travis lower in the order, in a run producing spot. That would be a big help considering they effectively replaced Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista with Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce. I’m sure that’ll work out fine.

So Are They A Fit? Yes in the same way the Orioles are a fit. The Blue Jays could use Gardner, for sure, but to get him, they’d have to swing a rare intradivision trade. It’s not impossible. Just really tough to do. There’s a reason you don’t see them often. Everyone’s afraid of losing a trade to a division rival.

2016 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Thursday

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

The 2016 Winter Meetings wrap-up today from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. Late last night the Yankees swooped in and agreed to re-sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year contract worth $86M, which is easily the largest reliever contract in history. Now the team can move on to other business, like adding rotation and middle relief help.

“I’ve got a lot of different things going on,” said Brian Cashman to Bryan Hoch. “Listen, they’ve got a time frame in free agency. They’re going through their process. In the meantime, I’m doing a whole bunch of other stuff at the same time. I’ve had several conversations with various agents today and a lot of club activity at the same time.”

On Wednesday we learned the Yankees have cast a wide net for bullpen help and have checked in on White Sox closer David Robertson and free agent Sergio Romo. Also, they want Ruben Tejada and Nick Rumbelow on minor league deals. We’ll once again keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here, so make sure you check back often. I can’t promise a ton of updates. The final day of the Winter Meetings is traditionally the slowest. All time stamps are Eastern Time.

  • 9:30am: When asked about recent rumors involving Brett Gardner and the Orioles, Cashman said he wouldn’t have a problem making a trade within the AL East. “If I can trade with the Red Sox and Mets, I can trade with the Orioles,” he said. Interestingly, Cashman said he tried to trade Ivan Nova to the O’s at the deadline. [Pete Caldera, Hoch]
  • 10:29am: Cashman doesn’t expect to pursue any more position players this offseason. The focus is pitching. “It’s unlikely for us to make any changes on the position player side unless we trade Gardy,” said the GM, who added he’s rejected offers for Chase Headley. [Caldera]
  • 11:23am: Not surprisingly, Cashman said the Yankees are basically out of spending money this offseason after signing Chapman. Good thing the free agent class stinks, huh? [Andrew Marchand]
  • 12:24pm: Once again, Cashman reiterated he’s not optimistic about improving the rotation this offseason. “I don’t anticipate adding any starting pitching. I’d love to if I could but I doubt it’s realistic,” said the GM. [Marchand, Erik Boland]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Yankeemetrics: The final series [Sept. 30-Oct. 2]

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

The Pineda Puzzle
One day after they were officially eliminated from the playoff race, the Yankees flopped in an ugly 8-1 loss on Friday night.

The offense was M.I.A. with just three singles, while going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. It was their 16th game without an extra-base hit, the most in the majors through Friday, and their AL-high 35th game scoring one run or fewer.

It was also their 11th game with three hits or fewer — no team in MLB had done that more this season through Friday — and the first time the Orioles held the Yankees to no more than three hits at Yankee Stadium since August 14, 2007.

Michael Pineda made his final start of 2016, and his Jekyll-and-Hyde performance (5 runs, 4⅓ innings, 5 strikeouts) against the Orioles was a fitting end to Pineda’s perplexing and season.

He finished with a career-best 207 strikeouts (that’s good!) and a career-worst 4.82 ERA (that’s bad!) while going 6-12 in 32 starts. His 4.82 ERA is the fifth-highest by any MLB pitcher ever with at least 200 strikeouts in a season, and his .333 win percentage is the second-lowest among that group.

And that’s not the worst of his puzzling, boom-or-bust campaign: Pineda allowed a whopping .784 OPS this year, the highest in major-league history for a guy that also struck out 200-or-more batters in a season.

austin low five
(Getty)

Party at Austin’s
The Yankees bounced back from their lackluster series-opening loss with a resounding 7-3 victory on Saturday, preventing the Orioles from clinching a playoff spot on the penultimate day of the season.

Typical of this up-and-down Yankee season, the game featured a number of encouraging signs for the future while also re-affirming some potential concerns heading into 2017.

The bad news? Luis Severino continued his baffling string of disappointing pitching performances as a starter, giving up three runs on five hits before being pulled in the fourth inning. He ended up with a 8.50 ERA in 11 starts, the highest ERA as a starter by any pitcher in franchise history with at least 10 starts in a season.

If there’s a silver lining in Severino’s poor showing as a member of the rotation it’s this: the highest single-season starters’ ERA in MLB history (min. 10 starts) belongs to Roy Halladay, who posted a 11.13 ERA in 13 starts in 2000; three years later, he won the first of his two Cy Young Awards.

The good news? Two of the more unheralded Baby Bombers continued their unexpected trend of clutch hitting performances, with Tyler Austin and Austin Romine fueling the Yankees’ late-game offensive explosion and comeback bid.

Austin knotted the score at 3-3 in the seventh inning with his fifth homer of the season, and the 406-foot blast was eerily similar to each of the others he’s hit in the majors. All five of them have: been at Yankee Stadium, gone out to right-center or right field, and either tied the game or gave the Yankees a lead.

Four of his five longballs have also come in the seventh frame or later, giving him the most go-ahead and/or game-tying homers on the team this season through Saturday. Even more impressive is this feat: Austin is the only Yankee rookie in at least the last 75 years to hit four go-ahead and/or game-tying homers in the seventh inning or later.

Romine then capped off the Yankees rally with a tie-breaking, two-run single in the eighth inning, his 16th hit in 44 at-bats with runners in scoring position this year. His .364 batting average in that situation not only leads the team, but would be the best by any Yankee with that many at-bats in a decade, since Derek Jeter hit .381 with RISP in 2006.

Game 162
And so the 2016 season comes to an end, fittingly the same way it began, with a loss at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankee bats were shut down by the newest Yankee killer, Kevin Gausman, who dominated the Yankees this season with just five earned runs surrendered across 41 innings. Among pitchers to make at least five starts against the Yankees in a season, Gausman’s 1.09 ERA is the lowest since Brewers lefty Mike Caldwell’s 0.99 mark in 1978, when he three shutouts in five starts versus them.

Brian McCann‘s solo homer in the fourth inning was the Yankees lone source of offense for much of the afternoon, and it was a significant one for the catcher, his 20th of the year. He is the fourth catcher (who played at least 50 percent of their games at the position) in major-league history with double-digit 20-homer seasons, joining Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench, and Yogi Berra. It was also his ninth straight season with at least 20 homers; among catchers, only Yogi and Piazza ever had a streak like that.

 

tex goodbye

McCann joined his backstop teammate, Gary Sanchez, in the 20-homer club, making the Yankees just the third team in major-league history to have two guys, who played catcher in at least half their games, hit 20-plus homers in the same season. The other clubs to do this were the 1961 Yankees (Johnny Blanchard and Elston Howard) and 1965 Milwaukee Braves (Gene Oliver and Joe Torre).

Combined with Starlin Castro‘s 21 homers and Didi Gregorius‘ 20 homers, the Yankees are the first team in baseball history to get at least 20 homers from four different players, who each played more than half their games at either catcher or the middle infield (shortstop and second base) positions.

And finally, Mark Teixeira closed the book on his 14-season big-league career, walking off the field in the seventh inning to a standing ovation while tipping his cap to the hometown fans.

There are many stats and superlatives that define his legacy as a major-leaguer, but perhaps this one best captures his unprecedented combination of power and defense, which makes him such a unique and special player among his peers: Teixeira is the only first baseman to finish his career with at least five Gold Gloves (awarded since 1957) and at least 400 homers.

9/30 to 10/2 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Duane Burleson/Getty)
(Duane Burleson/Getty)

So here we are. The final series of the 2016 season. The Yankees were eliminated from postseason contention last night by the Orioles, who are in the Bronx for the final three games of the season this weekend. Baltimore beat the Blue Jays to knock the Yankees out. Alas. The Yankees are 8-8 against the Orioles this season, including 5-2 at Yankee Stadium.

What Have They Done Lately?

The O’s took two of three from Toronto this week and they’ve won five of their last six games overall. They’re 87-72 with a +23 run differential. The Orioles and Blue Jays are tied for the second wildcard spot, and the Tigers are 1.5 games back. Baltimore’s magic number is three. Sweeping them this weekend wouldn’t automatically push the O’s out of the postseason — the Tigers still need to take of their own business — but it would be a big help for Detroit.

Offense & Defense

The Orioles have had exactly the kind of offense everyone expected them to have this season. They hit a ton of homers (247) but they’re only okay at getting on base (team .317 OBP), which is why they’re middle of the pack with an average of 4.58 runs per game. Their team wRC+ is exactly average at 100. The O’s are without UTIL Steve Pearce (forearm) and Rule 5 Draft OF Joey Rickard (thumb), who are done for the year.

Davis. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Davis. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Despite a .314 OBP, CF Adam Jones (98 wRC+) remains manager Buck Showalter’s leadoff hitter for whatever reason. Lately 1B Chris Davis (110 wRC+) has been batting second too, so that’s fun. 3B Manny Machado (130 wRC+) and DH Mark Trumbo (121 wRC+) hit third and fourth. Showalter starting bunching his four best hitters at the top of the lineup about a week ago. DH Pedro Alvarez (117 wRC+) and rookie DH Trey Mancini (283 wRC+) have been platooning as the No. 5 hitters.

C Matt Wieters (85 wRC+), 2B Jonathan Schoop (94 wRC+), and SS J.J. Hardy (91 wRC+) are the team’s other regulars. OF Hyun-Soo Kim (122 wRC+) and OF Nolan Reimold (78 wRC+) have been sharing time in left field of late. C Francisco Pena (33 wRC+), UTIL Ryan Flaherty (62 wRC+), and OF Michael Bourn (75 wRC+) were the regular bench players for much of the season. C Caleb Joseph, IF Paul Janish, and OF Drew Stubbs are the extra September call-ups.

Defensively the Orioles are a solid team with above-average defenders at all four infield spots. Well, Machado is arguably the single greatest defensive player in baseball, so he’s more than above-average. Jones is solid in center, ditto Wieters behind the plate, but the corner outfield spots leave a lot to be desired regardless of who Showalter sends out there. When it doubt, hit it to Trumbo.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:05pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (vs. NYY)
Had Gallardo been merely bad instead of disastrous, the Orioles would have probably locked up a playoff spot a few days ago. The 30-year-old right-hander has a 5.63 ERA (5.09 FIP) in 22 starts and 112 innings this season, and there’s basically no silver lining in his rate starts. Not enough strikeouts (16.3%) or grounders (43.4%), and too many walks (11.4%) and homers (1.29 HR/9). His platoon split is small because batters on both sides of the plate have hit him well. Gallardo’s four-seamer and sinker sit right around 90 mph, and his trademark slider is still humming in around 87 mph. He’ll also throw mid-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs. The Yankees have seen Gallardo twice this year. The first start was okay (four runs in seven innings) and the second was a nightmare (eight runs in 1.1 innings).

Saturday (4:05pm ET): TBA vs. TBA
The O’s still have Saturday’s starter listed as TBA but it is expected to be lefty Wade Miley, who has been away from the team the last few days on paternity leave. The 29-year-old southpaw has a 5.40 ERA (4.50 FIP) in 29 starts and 160 total innings this season, though it’s a 6.38 ERA (3.91 FIP) in ten starts and 48 innings with the O’s since coming over from the Mariners at the trade deadline. His peripherals are middling (18.7 K%, 7.0 BB%, 47.9 GB%, 1.35 HR/9) and righties have hit him a ton harder than lefties. These days Miley sits in the low-90s with his four-seamer and sinker, and pairs them with low-to-mid-80s changeups and sliders. He’ll also toss a few upper-70s curves per start too. The Yankees have seen him just once this season, scoring four runs in five innings a little less than four weeks ago.

As for the Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka (forearm) threw a bullpen session yesterday and says he wants to make his scheduled start tomorrow, but the Yankees might simply shut him down now that they’ve been knocked out of the race. If they do, I guess Luis Severino would get the start the instead. Kinda weird he hasn’t been suspended, right? Maybe MLB forgot he threw at a hitter intentionally (twice!) and was ejected. Usually that’s an insta-suspension announced the next day. Weird.

Update: Severino has been fined for his role in Monday’s brawl, but not suspended. Huh.

Gausman. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Gausman. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

Sunday (3:05pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (vs. NYY)
Hah, figures. Last game of the season and who do the Yankees have to face? The guy who’s crushed them all season. Though, to be fair, Gausman has been dominating everyone of late. He has a 3.15 ERA (3.90 FIP) since the All-Star break. The 25-year-old northpaw has a 3.66 ERA (4.08 FIP) in 29 starts and a career high 172.1 innings. His strikeout (23.5%) and walk (6.3%) rates are very good, though Gausman has been a little too fly ball (43.4 GB%) and home run (1.41 H/9) prone. Then again, pretty much every pitcher has been homer prone this season. Righties have hit Gausman harder than lefties and that’s not unusual because he has a nasty mid-80s splitter. That pitch is the equalizer against batters of the opposite hand. His fastball sits mid-to-high-90s and he’ll also throw some low-80s curveballs. In five starts against the Yankees this season Gausman has a 0.80 ERA and a .205/.240/.279 batting line against in 33.2 innings. Yeah.

Bullpen Status

The Orioles are fighting for their playoffs lives and Showalter has declared this an all hands on deck weekend. That means starters RHP Dylan Bundy (4.02 ERA/4.69 FIP) and RHP Chris Tillman (3.77/4.22) are available in relief, if necessary. Tillman is lined up to start the wildcard game and they probably don’t want to mess with that if at all possible though. Anyway, here is Showalter’s bullpen.

Closer: LHP Zach Britton (0.55 ERA/1.59 FIP)
Setup: RHP Brad Brach (1.60/2.86), RHP Darren O’Day (3.90/4.68)
Middle: RHP Mychal Givens (3.18/3.26), LHP Donnie Hart (0.50/3.53), RHP Tommy Hunter (3.18/3.05)
Long: RHP Vance Worley (3.53/4.82)
Extra: LHP Jayson Aquino, RHP Oliver Drake, LHP Bran Duensing, RHP Tyler Wilson, RHP Mike Wright

O’Day has missed much of the season with hamstring and shoulder problems, but he’s healthy now and on the roster. Him, Brach, and Britton form a really tough end-game trio. Britton might be the best closer in the game right now. Showalter, like Joe Girardi, loves his matchups, so get ready for lots and lots of pitching changes this weekend.

Brach (23 pitches) and Hart (four pitches) both pitched last night. Then again, with a 12-man bullpen, availability isn’t much of a problem. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi’s relief crew.

Yankeemetrics: Disaster averted in Baltimore [Sept. 2-4]

(UPI)
(UPI)

Nightmare on Eutaw Street
It’s hard to think of a worse start to September baseball for the Yankees than the shellacking they endured on Friday night in Baltimore.

All the momentum they had piled up after an inspiring series win in Kansas City was suddenly gone after their deflating 8-0 loss to the Orioles. This was the worst shutout loss the Yankees have ever suffered at Camden Yards, which opened in 1992. The last time they had a shutout loss that bad in Baltimore was Sept. 9, 1991 at Memorial Stadium.

The Yankees fell behind quickly as the O’s hammered them early and often with all eight runs and four homers in the first four innings. This was the eighth game this year that the Yankees surrendered at least four longballs, the most such games in a season in franchise history.

Their punchless offense did little to counter the awful performance by the pitching staff, hitting just two singles in the third inning. Welp. It had been more than a decade since they played a game in Baltimore and had two hits or fewer: on August 5, 2006 Adam Loewen, Todd Williams and LaTroy Hawkins combined for a one-hitter in the Orioles 5-0 win. (Yes, that game really happened.)

Deja booooo
The Yankees’ September swoon continued on Saturday night as they were shut out for the second game in a row, 2-0, extending their recent stretch of miserable baseball in Baltimore. Following Saturday’s loss, they fell to 10-26 at Camden Yards since the start of 2013, their worst record at any American League ballpark in that span, and the worst mark by any AL team at Camden Yards over the past four seasons.

girardi sad
(Getty)

It was just a week ago that the Yankees scored an unthinkable 27 (!) runs in the first two games of their series against this same team (Orioles), and then they scored exactly zero runs in the first two games of this series. That’s baseball, folks.

The end result was their ninth game being shut out this season — four of which have come against the Orioles, who rank 12th in the AL in team ERA — and the eighth time they’ve been shut out in a game away from Yankee Stadium. Those eight road shutouts are the most they’ve suffered in a single season since 1973 when they somehow had 12 (!) of them.

For the second night in a row the Yankees’ bats were silenced as they finished with just four hits, all of them singles again. In the last 100 seasons, only once before had the Yankees been held scoreless with four hits or fewer — and no extra-base hits — in back-to-back road games versus the same opponent: the Kansas City A’s did it to them on Aug. 27-28, 1965.

Even worse is the fact that Saturday’s game marked the third straight time the Orioles had blanked the Yankees, dating back to a 5-0 loss in the final game of their matchup last week.

The 2016 Orioles are the eighth team in baseball history to post three straight shutouts against the Yankees, but just the second one to do it in the last 75 years. The rest of this group includes the 1973 White Sox, 1934 Tigers, 1929 Browns, 1913 Senators, 1909 Browns, 1908 Senators and 1906 White Sox.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Stayin’ alive
The Yankees kept their scant playoff dreams alive with a season-saving win on Sunday afternoon, avoiding the series sweep in what Joe Girardi deemed “the most important game of the year”.

After getting blanked in the first two games, the Yankees wasted little time in making sure it wouldn’t be a hat trick. They plated three runs in the first inning thanks to a couple RBI hits by Chase Headley and Austin Romine. And, mercifully, disaster was averted in Yankeeland.

We also get to trumpet our “If That Had Happened Yankeemetric of the Week” (cap-tip to Mark Simon for that name … he is also more famous for authoring an excellent Yankees book, which I guarantee you will enjoy if you are reading this post):

As noted above, the Orioles were the eighth team to post three straight shutouts against the Yankees. No team had ever allowed zero runs in four consecutive games versus the Yankees, and that statistical fact will remain intact in the record books … for now.

While the Bronx Bombers did manage to finally put runs on the scoreboard, their six hits were all singles for the third straight game. This is just the second time in the last three decades the Yankees went three games in a row without an extra-base hit; the other streak was May 13-16, 2000 against the Tigers and White Sox.

You have to go back even further to find the last time an opponent held the Yankees without an extra-base hit in three consecutive games within a series: the Orioles did it in September 1976.

The biggest outs of the game were recorded by Luis Severino, who took over for Pineda in the fifth inning with the Yankees clinging to a two-run lead, a runner on second base and no one out. He got himself into a bases-loaded jam but escaped without allowing a run, and then threw a perfect sixth inning to earn the win.

Here’s some fun with small sample sizes: In 11 1/3 innings as a bullpen arm, Severino has faced 40 batters. Just one of those guys has a hit (an infield single by Neil Walker on August 3), and nearly one-third (13) of them have struck out. He is the only pitcher in baseball this season that has faced at least 30 batters as a reliever, allowed zero earned runs and no more than one hit.