Yankeemetrics: Nightmare at Fenway Park [Sept. 15-18]

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Speechless
Just when you started to believe in this plucky, underdog team with a nothing-to-lose mentality and pinstripes on its uniforms … Thursday night happened.

The Yankees suffered their most devastating loss of the season, blowing a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning — they were two strikes away from a win — and losing in truly heartbreaking fashion when Dellin Betances served up a walk-off home run to Hanley Ramirez.

In the long history of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, this was just the third time that a Yankee pitcher coughed up a game-ending home run with the lead and one out to go.

The most recent game came on June 30, 1953 when Sammie White hit a two-run shot off Allie Reynolds in the bottom of the ninth to give Boston a 5-4 win; the first instance was August 7, 1935 when Joe Cronin took Johnny Broaca deep to turn a 5-3 Yankee advantage into a 6-5 loss.

The deflating defeat becomes even more depressing and soul-wrenching given that the Yankees also wasted an absolute gem by Masahiro Tanaka.

The right-hander added another chapter to his Cy Young resume with a stellar one-run, seven-inning performance against the league’s most potent lineup. It was his ninth start of at least seven innings and no more than one earned run allowed, a number that led all American League pitchers through Thursday’s slate.

The brilliant outing lowered his ERA to 2.97, pushing Tanaka past Chris Sale to the top of the AL leaderboard. If he can keep up this pace, he’d be the first Yankee to lead the league in ERA since Rudy May in 1980. And no Yankee has qualified for the ERA title with a sub-3.00 ERA since David Cone (2.82) and Andy Pettitte (2.88) in 1997.

He dominated the Red Sox batters not with his typical nasty, swing-and-miss stuff, but rather with an aggressive, pitch-to-contact approach. He located his off-speed pitches at the knees and pounded the edges of the strike zone with his fastball, generating a personal-best 15 ground ball outs while failing to record a strikeout for the first time in his MLB career.

Tanaka’s streak of 73 straight games with at least one punchout to begin his major-league career was the second-longest by any Yankee, behind only Dave Righetti (88 games). He’s also the first Yankee to go at least seven innings without striking out a batter in a game since Andy Pettitte on April 21, 2009 vs. the A’s and the first to do it against the Red Sox since Tommy John on June 25, 1980.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Different story, same result
The Yankees took another beating from the Red Sox on Friday night, losing again but this time with much less drama and in more conventional fashion: The Yankees fell behind early, their inexperienced middle relief arms put them in a deeper hole, and the bats wasted numerous scoring opportunities in an attempt to come back from a too-big deficit.

Following their pathetic 1-for-11 performance with runners in scoring position on Friday night, their season batting average in that situation fell to .231, which is by far the lowest among all AL teams this season and would be the worst by any Yankee team since 1969 (.224).

The offense was shut down by Boston’s Clay Buchholz, a pitcher that the Yankees had routinely pounded in the past. He entered Friday’s start with a 6.19 ERA in 18 career games (17 starts) versus the Yankees, the third-highest among all active pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched against them.

Snatching defeat from the arms of victory, again
The Yankees sudden and swift free fall in the playoff race continued on Saturday afternoon, enduring yet another excruciating loss while sinking further and further in the standings.

(AP Sports)
(AP Sports)

Gary Sanchez gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead when he clobbered a 95-mph fastball over the Green Monster. It went an estimated 407 feet, the 12th time he’s hit a ball at least 400 feet. From his call-up on August 3 and through Saturday, only one player (Brian Dozier) hit more 400-foot batted balls than Sanchez.

Milestone alert: Brett Gardner’s RBI triple in the third inning was his 50th career three-bagger. He is the only Yankee to pile up at least 50 triples, 50 homers and 200 stolen bases within his first nine major-league seasons.

Just seven other AL outfielders in baseball history have achieved the feat: Carl Crawford, Ichiro, Johnny Damon, Kenny Lofton, Brady Anderson, Lloyd Moseby and Ben Chapman.

That was fun while it lasted …
Hello coffin, meet nail.

Yes, the Yankees are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot, but their improbable quest for a postseason berth is now on life support and it will take a near-miracle to earn a ticket to the October party. Nearly all the momentum and ground they’d gained during their magical seven-game win streak has been nullified in the blink of an eye, as they’ve gone from postseason contenders to pretenders in less than a week.

The latest horrible loss capped off an absolutely crushing sweep in Boston, the first time the Yankees have been swept in a four-game series by the Red Sox since June 4-7, 1990. [The Stump Merrill era began during that series when he replaced Bucky Dent as manager after the second of the four losses.]

It wouldn’t be a hyperbole to suggest that Fenway Park has become the latest “house of horrors” for the Yankees, who finished with a record of 2-8 at the ballpark, the most losses by a Yankee team there since they went 1-8 in 1973.

And finally … Let’s end on a positive note: Gary Sanchez’s assault on American League pitching continued with his 16th homer of the year (in 159 at-bats), a blast to left field that put the Yankees up 2-0 in the third inning. Sanchez’s incredible rate of 9.94 at-bats per homer would be the best by any Yankee in a single season since Roger Maris (9.67) and Mickey Mantle (9.52) waged their epic home run battle in 1961.

While Sanchez is best known for his tape-measure bombs, he’s also the rare young slugger who hits for average. After going 3-for-5 on Sunday night, he’s now hitting .327 this year, and is on pace to join Joe DiMaggio (1936) as the only Yankees to have a rookie season with at least 15 homers and a .300-plus batting average.

9/15 to 9/18 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

And now, the final road trip of the season. It’s a big one too. Eleven games spanning 12 days and three cities. The trip starts tonight with the first of four in Boston. If you’re still hoping the Yankees will go on a run and win the AL East, this series is pretty much a must sweep. Thing aren’t quite that desperate in the wildcard race, but it’s close. The Yankees are 5-7 against the BoSox this season, including 2-4 at Fenway Park.

What Have They Done Lately?

Last night the Red Sox lost only the fourth 1-0 game in Fenway Park since the start of the 2013 season. Mark Trumbo’s homer and Kevin Gausman’s brilliance did them in. Nice to see Gausman pitch well against a team other than the Yankees for once. Anyway, the BoSox have dropped their last two games but did win five of six prior to that. They’re 81-64 with a +169 run differential overall. That’s the third best record and first best run differential in the AL. Boston is in first place in the AL East; they’re one game up on the O’s, two up on the Blue Jays, and four up on the Yankees. And 19 up on the Rays, but no one cares about them anymore.

Offense & Defense

The Red Sox have the best offense in baseball and the best offense by any team since the 2009 Yankees. These Red Sox are averaging 5.55 runs per game. The 2009 Yankees averaged 5.65 runs per game. Boston has a team 114 wRC+ and their only injured position players are 3B Pablo Sandoval (shoulder), IF Josh Rutledge (knee), and C/OF Blake Swihart (ankle). They all had season-ending surgeries.

Pedroia. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)
Pedroia. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Manager John Farrell has changed up his lineup fairly recently. Nowadays 2B Dustin Pedroia (127 wRC+) leads off with SS Xander Bogaerts (111 wRC+) second, DH David Ortiz (161 wRC+) third, RF Mookie Betts (132 wRC+) fourth, and 1B Hanley Ramirez (121 wRC+) fifth. Farrell moved Betts down to better take advantage of his power. Pedroia is hitting .435/.461/.519 (164 wRC+) since moving to the leadoff spot last month, which is ridiculous. The top of that lineup is not fun at all.

Right now IF Aaron Hill (88 wRC+) and 1B/3B Travis Shaw (98 wRC+) are platooning at third while ex-Yankee OF Chris Young (139 wRC+) and C Sandy Leon (150 wRC+) are the everyday left fielder and catcher, respectively. Leon’s having an insane out-of-nowhere season, though he has cooled off of late, especially in the power department. CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (120 wRC+) is back hitting eighth and ninth. Farrell likes Bradley hitting lower in the order because he acts as a second leadoff man.

UTIL Brock Holt (91 wRC+) and C Ryan Hanigan (18 wRC+) are the regular bench players, and it’s worth noting OF Andrew Benintendi (123 wRC+) recently came off the DL following a knee injury. He’s available but it sounds like the Red Sox don’t want to use him unless it’s an emergency, so he must not be 100% physically. C Bryan Holaday, C Christian Vazquez, IF Marco Hernandez, IF Deven Marrero, and IF Yoan Moncada are the September additions. Moncada has a 60.0% strikeout rate so far. See? The Yankees knew what they were doing all along.

The Red Sox are a good defensive team, particularly up the middle. Pedroia, Bradley, and Betts are all excellent in the field while Young and Bogaerts are good as well. Shaw and Hanley are liabilities on the corners though. We’ve seen it a few times firsthand this season. Leon and Hanigan are both strong defensive catchers. Leon’s thrown out 43% of attempted basestealers in his career, so don’t run on him.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (7:10pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (vs. NYY)
Rodriguez, 23, has given the Yankees a lot of fits the last two years. He has an unsightly 4.70 ERA (4.87 FIP) in 16 starts and 88 innings this year, though it’s worth noting he’s been much better of late, pitching to a 2.63 ERA (3.48 FIP) in seven starts since the beginning of August. The peripherals across the board are not that great (19.0 K%, 8.6 BB%, 33.3 GB%, 1.53 HR/9), and his platoon split is small. Rodriguez sits in the mid-90s with his four-seamer and sinker, and his go-to secondary pitch is a quality upper-80s changeup. He’s thrown his mid-80s slider a little more often of late, though it’s still his worst pitch. The Yankees have faced the young southpaw twice this season, and he held them to one run in seven innings both times. Annoying!

Friday (7:10pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (vs. NYY)
Man, what an awful season for Buchholz. He started the year in the rotation, got demoted to the bullpen, moved back to the rotation, got demoted again, and now he’s back in the rotation thanks to Steven Wright’s shoulder injury. The 32-year-old Buchholz has a 5.31 ERA (5.38 FIP) in 120.1 innings covering 18 starts and 16 relief appearances, and his numbers as a starter are ghastly: 5.71 ERA (5.76 FIP) with 16.0% strikeouts, 9.4% walks, 42.5% grounders, and 1.84 HR/9. Yikes. Lefties have hit him a lot harder than righties too. These days Buchholz sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his four-seamer and a tick below that with his cutter. A low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball are his two non-fastballs. Amazingly, the Yankees have only seen Buchholz once this season. He came out of the bullpen last month, faced one batter, and got two outs. (Starlin Castro grounded into a double play.)

Price. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)
Price. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Saturday (1:05pm ET): RHP Bryan Mitchell (vs. BOS) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
The Yankees didn’t see Price when these two teams played last month, and I’m pretty sure that’s the first time Price did not start during a series against the Yankees in about six years. I haven’t bothered to look it up, but that sounds like it could be true. He never seems to miss them. Price, 31, has had an overall disappointing first season with the Red Sox (3.81 ERA and 3.36 FIP in 205.2 innings), though he has a 2.99 ERA (3.32 FIP) in the second half, and that’s the David Price we’re used to seeing. As usual, his strikeout (24.8%) and walk (5.2%) rates are excellent while his grounder (44.7%) and homer (1.05 HR/9) rates are worse than the league average. He’s always been a soft contact/pop-up guy. Price’s platoon split is small and his fastballs are still humming in the mid-90s. His cutter is a notch below that and it’s a nasty pitch he likes to backdoor to righties. A mid-80s changeup in his primary offspeed pitch, and he’ll also throw a few low-80s curves per start as well. The Yankees have seen Price three times this year: six runs in seven innings in May, six runs in 4.2 innings later in May, and three runs in 5.2 innings in July.

Sunday (8:00pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz (vs. NYY)
In the grand scheme of things, the 27-year-old Pomeranz has had a breakout season in 2016, posting a 3.25 ERA (3.75 FIP) in 28 starts and 160.2 innings. He was a deserving All-Star too. Now, that said, his season can be broken down in 17 ace-caliber starts with the Padres (2.47 ERA and 3.14 FIP in 102 innings) and eleven meh starts with the Red Sox (4.60 ERA and 4.81 FIP in 58.2 innings). Not exactly what the BoSox were hoping for so far. Pomeranz has a great strikeout rate (26.8%) and a good ground ball rate (46.3%), though he walks too many (9.6%) and doesn’t limit dingers (1.12 HR/9). His homer rate with the Red Sox is 1.84 HR/9. Egads. Pomeranz has a negligible platoon split thanks mostly to his big upper-70s curveball and new-ish mid-80s cutter. He throws the curve about as often as he throws his low-90s four-seam fastball, so he uses it a lot. For whatever reason he’s more or less abandoned his changeup after the trade to Boston. The Yankees have seen Pomeranz twice this year. He held them to one run in seven innings while with the Padres back in July, then he held them to one run in 5.1 innings with the Red Sox last month.

Bullpen Status

(Mitchell Layton/Getty)
Kimbrel. (Mitchell Layton/Getty)

Boston’s rotation has turned things around a bit in the second half, though their bullpen remains a real weakness, especially in the middle innings. It’s no surprise then that they’re carrying 12 relievers thanks to expanded rosters. Might as well load up that bullpen, right? Here is Farrell’s bullpen:

Closer: RHP Craig Kimbrel (2.78 ERA/2.65 FIP)
Setup: RHP Koji Uehara (4.05/3.69), RHP Brad Ziegler (2.37/3.11), LHP Robbie Ross Jr. (3.33/3.16)
Middle: RHP Matt Barnes (4.19/3.68), LHP Fernando Abad (3.30/3.57), RHP Junichi Tazawa (4.44/4.51)
Extra: RHP Heath Hembree, RHP Joe Kelly, LHP Henry Owens, RHP Noe Ramirez, LHP Robbie Scott

Uehara missed close to two months with a pectoral injury and returned just last week. The Red Sox eased him back into things with low-leverage innings at first, but he’s back to being the primary eighth inning guy now. Ziegler isn’t necessarily the seventh inning guy. He’s more like the backup setup man. He pitches the eighth the days Uehara isn’t available.

Uehara was the only reliever used yesterday and he threw just 14 pitches. Farrell doesn’t like to use the 41-year-old on back-to-back days though, so Ziegler figures to be the eighth inning guy tonight. Hopefully the Red Sox don’t need him. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relief crew.

Saturday Links: Gurriel, Beltran, A-Rod, Forbes, Watson

Lourdes Jr. (Getty)
Lourdes Jr. (Getty)

The Yankees and Angels continue their weekend series later today, but not until 9:35pm ET. Blah. I hate Saturday night games, especially when they’re on the West Coast. Oh well. What can you do? Here are some links to help you pass the time.

MLB declares Gurriel a free agent

MLB has declared Lourdes Gurriel Jr. a free agent, reports Eric Longenhagen. He is the younger brother of Yulieski Gurriel, who signed a five-year contract worth $47.5M with the Astros a few weeks ago. Lourdes is a free agent but he’s not going to sign right away. Once he turns 23 in October, he will no longer be eligible for the international spending restrictions. He’s going to wait until then to sign to max out his earning potential.

Longenhagen and Ben Badler (subs. req’d) say reports on Lourdes are mixed. He’s a good athlete capable of playing an up-the-middle position, and while he has speed and power, his swing can get long. Gurriel has a lot of upside, but is also a bit of a project for a kid who will soon turn 23. He’s probably not someone who will zoom through the minors and be in the big leagues within a year. That’s fine. Talent is talent, and Lourdes has a lot of it.

Red Sox tried hard to land Beltran

According to Nick Cafardo, the Red Sox “tried very hard” to acquire Carlos Beltran at the trade deadline, though the Rangers swooped in with a better offer. I assume Boston would have played Beltran in left field, where they’ve had a revolving door pretty much all season. Or maybe Beltran plays right and Mookie Betts moves to left. I dunno. Who cares. Whatever.

The real question is whether the Yankees (and Red Sox, for that matter) would have actually gone through with the trade if the Red Sox had indeed made the best offer. Potentially losing a trade to your biggest rival is enough to make anyone squeamish. My guess is Brian Cashman and David Dombrowski would have been willing to go through with a trade, but the two ownership groups would not have signed off. This is much different than a Stephen Drew-for-Kelly Johnson swap.

Hal not ruling out a spot for A-Rod in Monument Park

During a radio interview last week, Hal Steinbrenner did not rule out the possibility of Alex Rodriguez one day winding up in Monument Park. He didn’t exactly endorse it, but he didn’t shoot it down entirely either. Here’s what Hal said, via Brendan Kuty:

“It’s a bridge to cross when we come to it, but he has done a lot for this organization, on and off the field,” Steinbrenner said. “And I’m talking about players way back, even (Mariners second baseman Robinson) Cano, who he was a mentor to. He’s done a lot for this organization on the field though the years, but also off the field that people don’t know about. He’s been a great mentor.”

A-Rod is, unquestionably, one of the greatest players in Yankees history, especially recent history. He’s among the all-time franchise leaders in a ton of categories, including homers (6th), OPS (7th), WAR (8th), OPS+ (10th), runs (10th), and total bases (10th). Alex also won two MVPs in pinstripes and was a major factor in the team’s most recent World Series title. If that’s not Monument Park plaque worthy, I don’t know what is.

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

Yankees among most valuable sports franchises

A few weeks back Forbes posted their annual look at the most valuable sports franchises in the world. The Yankees placed fourth, with an estimated value of $3.4 billion. That’s up 6% from last year. The Yankees are behind only the Dallas Cowboys ($4 billion), Real Madrid ($3.65 billion), and Barcelona ($3.55 billion). The Dodgers are the second most valuable MLB franchise at $2.5 billion, so the gap between the Yankees and everyone else is significant.

Attendance dropped from 41,995 fans per game in 2014 to 39,430 last year, and again to 38,967 so far this year. That’s roughly 3,000 fewer fans per game since two seasons ago. The attendance decline was at least somewhat expected after Derek Jeter retired, though obviously the team’s less than inspiring play for much of this season has played a role too. That said, the Yankees are still raking in money through other avenues (YES, Legends Hospitality, etc.), and there’s no real end in sight. The team prints money.

Watson battling kidney failure

Going to close with some sad news: Bob Watson, former GM of the Yankees, is currently battling kidney failure, he told Chuck Modiano. He is on nocturnal dialysis and doctors told him he only has a few years to live. “I really wanted to be (at the 1996 World Series reunion last weekend), but my health won’t allow it. I am battling Stage 4 kidney failure. Not too many people know about it,” said Watson, who beat prostate cancer in the mid-1990s.

Watson, 70, had an incredibly productive playing career — he hit .295/.364/.447 from 1966-84, mostly with the Astros, but also with the Braves, Yankees, and Red Sox — and he became the first African American GM in baseball history to win a World Series in 1996. Watson served as Yankees GM from October 1995 to February 1998, when he stepped down and took a position in the commissioner’s office. He bridged the Gene Michael and Brian Cashman eras. I’m sad to hear he isn’t doing well. Keep fighting, Bob.

Yankeemetrics: The Not-Farewell Tour [Aug. 9-11]

(AP)
(AP)

Severino stumbles again
The Yankees opened their series at Fenway Park in familiar fashion — with a loss that dropped them back to .500 (56-56). This was the 17th time they’ve been exactly even in the win-loss ledger, which easily tops all MLB teams this season.

Another thing that has become commonplace for this Yankee club is mediocre starting pitching. Luis Severino returned to the rotation hoping to build on the promising work he’d done out of the bullpen the past few weeks, but instead reverted back to the same struggling pitcher he was at the beginning of season.

He was roughed up for five runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings and fell to 0-7 with a 7.78 ERA as a starter this season. The last Yankee pitcher to lose his first seven decisions of the season as a starter was Doyle Alexander in 1982.

Even worse is the fact that the Yankees still haven’t won a game started by Severino in 2016. This is the first time in more 80 years that the Yankees have lost the first eight games started by any pitcher in a season. In 1934, they lost the first eight times that Russ Van Atta took the mound as a starting pitcher.

While the Yankees’ recent youth movement has been well-documented, the Red Sox also boast an enviable cavalry of young and exciting players. The latest call-up is 22-year-old Andrew Benintendi, who had a tremendous night at the plate, going 3-for-3 with an RBI double and two runs scored.

The former Arkansas Razorback star is the answer to our latest #FunFact, becoming the youngest Red Sox outfielder with at least three hits against Yankees at Fenway Park since Ted Williams in 1940.

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

A Yankee legend is born
The Yankees bounced back from Tuesday’s loss with an impressive and uplifting win on Wednesday night, as they stormed back from a 4-1 deficit with eight unanswered runs in the seventh and eighth innings en route a stunning 9-4 victory.

The outlook for a win was grim early on when starter Nathan Eovaldi was removed after pitching one inning due to elbow discomfort. Joe Girardi was then forced to churn through seven relievers to finish off the contest. The eight pitchers used was the most ever by a Yankee team in a nine-inning game before Sept. 1 (when rosters expand).

Starlin Castro capped off the Yankees’ furious seventh inning rally with a tie-breaking, bases-loaded, two-run double for a 6-4 lead. That hit upped Castro’s batting average with the bases full to .467 (7-for-15) this season, the highest mark among players with more than 10 at-bats in that situation through Wednesday’s games.

Castro wore the hero’s cape but it was Gary Sanchez who grabbed the headlines with his spectacular 4-for-5 performance at the plate.

The 23-year-old Sanchez is the youngest Yankee with a four-hit game against the Red Sox since Derek Jeter on July 2, 1996 (in the Bronx), and the youngest Yankee to have four hits in a game at Fenway Park since Don Mattingly on June 12, 1984.

But not only did Sanchez have four hits, he also crushed his first major-league home run, a mammoth shot to center field in the eighth inning. That made him the first Yankee age 23 or younger with at least four hits and a home run in a game against the Red Sox since Mickey Mantle on May 22, 1954.

A-Rod says goodbye to Fenway
For the second night in a row, the Yankees seemed doomed for another loss before staging an improbable late-inning rally, this time winning by the final score of 4-2.

Down 2-1 in the eighth inning with the bases loaded, Jacoby Ellsbury drilled a line drive double to left field, scoring two runs. It was the first time in pinstripes that he’s delivered a go-ahead hit with the team trailing in the eighth inning or later, and is the only Yankee to do that this season.

The good version of Michael Pineda showed up in Boston as he scattered eight hits across six innings, allowing just two runs against a potent Red Sox offense. This was his 10th start versus the Red Sox as a Yankee, and the eighth time he’s given up no more than two runs. Since his first season in pinstripes in 2014, that’s the most such starts among all major-league pitchers and twice as many as any other Yankee in that span.

(AP)
(AP)

A-Rod’s final cuts in Yankee road grays were hardly memorable (except for the loud booing) as he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. If this is the end for A-Rod, he’ll finish his career with 59 career homers against the Red Sox, the sixth-most all-time and the most among players in the Divisional Era (since 1969). The only men ahead of him are Babe Ruth (90), Lou Gehrig (70), Mickey Mantle (69), Al Kaline (62) and Harmon Killebrew (61).

The other Rodriguez in this game, the Red Sox starter Eduardo, stifled the Yankee bats as he held them to a single run on three hits in seven innings pitched. He’s made a habit of dominating the Bronx Bombers: he hasn’t surrendered more than two runs in any of his six career starts against them.

Rodriguez is the first Red Sox pitcher in the last 100 years to have six straight starts versus the Yankees with two or fewer runs allowed in each game. The last pitcher on any team to begin his career with a streak like that against the Yankees was Dave Davenport for the St. Louis Browns in 1916.

8/9 to 8/11 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The final road series of Alex Rodriguez‘s career will take him where he played his first ever MLB game: Fenway Park. (No, the Red Sox are not planning to honor him.) The Yankees are in Boston for a three-game series with the Red Sox this week. If you’re still hoping to see the Yankees make a run at the postseason spot (I am!), this pretty much is a must-win series. New York is 3-6 against the BoSox this season. They were swept in three games in Fenway back in late-April/early-May.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Red Sox just wrapped up a long ten-game West Coast trip, during which they went 5-5. They lost four of the final six games. Overall, Boston is 60-50 with a +86 run differential on the season. That’s the best run differential but only the fifth best record in the AL. They’re 2.5 games back in the AL East and tied with the Tigers for the second wildcard spot. The Yankees are 4.5 games back of Boston.

Offense & Defense

Manager John Farrell oversees the highest scoring offense in baseball, and it’s not all that close either. The Red Sox are averaging 5.44 runs per game in 2016. The Coors Field aided Rockies are second at 5.20. The Indians are the next closest AL team at 4.99. So, yeah, the Red Sox can score. They have a team 114 wRC+, again the best in baseball, and the only regulars they’re missing are OF Chris Young (hamstring), C Ryan Hanigan (ankle), and C/OF Blake Swihart (ankle). And I guess 3B Pablo Sandoval (shoulder) too, but they don’t miss him.

Ortiz. (Elsa/Getty)
Ortiz. (Elsa/Getty)

For the most part Farrell has had a set top of the lineup. RF Mookie Betts (134 wRC+) leads off, 2B Dustin Pedroia (116 wRC+) hits second, SS Xander Bogaerts (123 wRC+) bats third, DH David Ortiz (160 wRC+) cleans up, and 1B Hanley Ramirez (109 wRC+) hits fifth. CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (133 wRC+) tends to hit sixth. Ortiz has had a phenomenal final season but has cooled off quite a bit in the second half (62 wRC+). Will that make me feel any more comfortable when he’s up at the plate this week? No. No it will not.

The Red Sox are platooning IF Travis Shaw (105 wRC+) and IF Aaron Hill (99 wRC+) at third base, and quasi-platooning UTIL Brock Holt (91 wRC+) and OF Andrew Benintendi (107 wRC+ in very limited time) in left. Holt and Benintendi are both lefty hitters, so they’ve been sharing time more than straight platooning. C Sandy Leon (161 wRC+) has taken over as the everyday catcher with C Bryan Holaday (74 wRC+) backing him up. OF Bryce Brentz (81 wRC+) is the other bench player.

Defensively, the Red Sox are a very good club, especially in the outfield. Bradley is great in center and Betts and Benintendi are good in the corners. (Holt isn’t all that good in left.) Pedroia is their best defensive infielder. Hanley and Shaw have their fish out of water moments on the corners, and while Bogaerts is solid, he’s in the lineup for his bat, first and foremost. Leon’s very good behind the plate.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7:10pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (vs. NYY)
Following a pretty disastrous first season in Boston, the still only 27-year-old Porcello has bounced back nicely this year. He has a 3.46 ERA (3.77 FIP) in 22 starts and 143 innings, with a career high strikeout rate (20.5%) and a career low walk rate (4.3%). Both his homer (1.07 HR/9) and grounder (45.2%) rates are closer to average these days after being much better than that earlier in his career. Righties have actually given Porcello a harder time than lefties this season, which the opposite of the rest of his career. He lives off a sinker right around 90 mph, and uses both low-80s changeups and low-70s curveballs regularly. Porcello has seen the Yankees twice this season: seven scoreless innings in April and three runs in seven innings in May.

Wednesday (7:10pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz (vs. NYY)
Pomeranz, 27, came over from the Padres prior to the trade deadline, and while he’s having a strong season overall (3.09 ERA and 3.61 FIP in 122.1 innings), his four starts with the Red Sox have not gone well (6.20 ERA and 6.03 FIP in 20.1 innings). His overall strikeout (27.0%) rate is excellent, and his grounder (47.5%) and homer (0.96 HR/9) numbers are good, but he walks way too many (10.5%). He averages 4.13 pitches per plate appearance, sixth highest in MLB. The southpaw will run his pitch count up quick. Thanks to his big-breaking upper-70s curveball and upper-80s cutter, Pomeranz has a very small platoon split. His straight four-seamer sits in the low-90s and his changeup in the mid-80s. The Yankees faced Pomeranz when he was still with the Padres a few weeks ago. He held them to one run in seven innings.

Pomeranz. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Pomeranz. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Thursday (7:10pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Steven Wright (vs. NYY)
Blah. Just can’t escape the knuckleball. The 31-year-old Wright has a 3.01 ERA (3.37 FIP) in 22 starts and 146.2 innings, though his home run rate (0.46 HR/9) has been on the rise of late. That was to be expected. Knuckleballers aren’t exactly known for keeping the ball in the park. Wright has average-ish strikeout (20.2%), walk (8.4%), and grounder (44.2%) rates, which is fairly common for knuckleball guys. Righties have had much more success against him that lefties so far this season. Wright’s knuckler floats in around 73 mph, and his get-me-over fastball sits in the low-80s. He throws his heater around 16% of the time, which is a lot by knuckleballer standards. Wright likes to surprise hitters with it in two-strike counts when they’re sitting knuckleball. The Yankees have seen Wright twice this year. He held them to one run in nine innings in May, and three runs in six innings in July.

Bullpen Status

You could make a case the Red Sox are without their second (RHP Carson Smith) and third (RHP Koji Uehara) best relievers right now. Smith is out for the season due to Tommy John surgery while Uehara is out for several weeks with a pectoral issue. Here’s the bullpen Farrell is working with now:

Closer: RHP Craig Kimbrel (3.31 ERA/2.59 FIP)
Setup: RHP Brad Ziegler (2.45/3.36), RHP Junichi Tazawa (3.52/4.15)
Middle: LHP Fernando Abad (2.72/3.79), RHP Matt Barnes (3.00/3.70), LHP Robbie Ross Jr. (3.76/2.91)
Long: RHP Clay Buchholz (5.68/5.62)

Kimbrel just returned a week or two ago from a torn meniscus. Ziegler and Abad came over at the trade deadline, and Buchholz … well he was so bad earlier this season that they had to take him out of the rotation. He’s been more effective in limited time as a reliever (3.32/2.97) than as a starter (6.31/6.33) this season.

The Red Sox had an off-day yesterday as they traveled home from the West Coast, so their bullpen is fresh. The Yankees had an off-day too, though they didn’t have to travel nearly as far. Both relief crews are in good shape going into the series. Makes sure you check out our Bullpen Workload page anyway.

2016 Trade Deadline Rumors Open Thread: Monday

Bye, Carlos? (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Bye, Carlos? (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

The 2016 non-waiver trade deadline is 4pm ET this afternoon, and the Yankees have already been very active. One of the most active teams in baseball, really. Within the last week they traded Aroldis Chapman, traded Andrew Miller, and added Tyler Clippard. Chances are they aren’t done either.

“Stay tuned. A lot more things could happen,” said Brian Cashman to reporters during a conference call following the Miller and Clippard trades yesterday. “If you want to become a super team, there are ways you have to go about it. We’re trying to get back to a situation where we can build an uber-team, and a sustainable one.”

Here are Sunday’s rumors. Once again, we’re going to keep track of the day’s Yankee-related rumors right here in this post. I’m going to be running around a bit today — bad timing, I know, but family first — and will do my best to update things promptly. All time stamps are ET.

  • 9:00am: The Astros, Red Sox, Indians, and Rangers are all in on Carlos Beltran. He has not yet been asked to waive his limited no-trade clause and, unsurprisingly, a trade with Boston is considered unlikely. I’m sure the thought of Beltran helping the BoSox win the World Series makes ownership squeamish, even if it means making the best possible deal. Some clubs want the Yankees to eat money to facilitate a trade. [Buster Olney, Mark Feinsand, Jon Heyman]
  • 9:00am: The Yankees continue to listen to offers for Brian McCann, Brett Gardner, Nathan Eovaldi, and Michael Pineda. They also want to unload impending free agent Ivan Nova prior to today’s deadline. [Joel Sherman]
  • 12:03pm: McCann remains a possibility for the Braves. They want the Yankees to eat a bunch of money and the Yankees want good prospects in return, so there are some things that need to be worked out. [Mark Bowman]

Reminder before you comment: Your trade proposal sucks.

Yankeemetrics: The fork in the road [July 15-17]

(AP)
(AP)

Different half, same Yankees
Four days of rest did little to change the narrative of the Yankees’ 2016 season. The faint glimmer of hope that flickered after the Yankees notched a huge pre-break series victory over the AL Central-leading Indians was quickly extinguished as the Yankees suffered another depressing defeat, 5-3, to the Red Sox on Friday night.

The loss dropped the Yankees to 44-45, the first time they’ve had a sub-.500 record at any point after the All-Star break since 1995. That season, after losing to Mariners on September 5, the Yankees fell to 60-61 but then went 19-4 down the stretch to capture the AL Wild Card.

It was a familiar Jekyll-and-Hyde performance for Michael Pineda, who has been maddeningly inconsistent this entire season. He flashed some electric stuff in the first few innings as he retired the first eight batters, including four via strikeouts, but then fell apart.

He was undone by a few poorly located fastballs that the Red Sox crushed, resulting in three homers and five runs surrendered in five innings. Opponents have slugged .648 against his cut fastball, the highest slugging percentage allowed on a fastball (four-seam, two-seam, cut) by any pitcher in the majors (min. 150 batted balls).

Carlos Beltran’s two-run single in the sixth inning helped the Yankees avoid a shutout and marked a historic milestone for the 39-year-old as he became the fourth switch-hitter to with 1,500 career RBI (Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones, Mickey Mantle).

The hit also put Beltran in a select group of prolific run-producers who also possessed the key speed tool. He is just the fifth player in major-league history with at least 300 stolen bases and 1,500 RBI joining Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays and Andre Dawson.

Sabathia sinking fast
Not even a matchup with the pitcher who owned the AL’s highest ERA (minimum five starts) could spark the Yankees anemic offense on Saturday afternoon.

Eduardo Rodriguez and his 8.59 ERA silenced the Yankee bats, who were held to two runs or fewer for the 35th time in 90 games this season in a 5-2 loss at the Stadium. That’s the Yankees’ most games of no more than two runs scored — at the 90-game mark — since the designated hitter rule was established in 1973.

sabathia long game 2
(Getty)

Despite his struggles this season, Rodriguez has a history of dominating the Yankees and now owns a 2.01 ERA in five career starts against them. He hasn’t given up more than two runs in each of those outings, the first Red Sox pitcher to post five straight starts with two runs or fewer against the Yankees in nearly five decades (Dave Morehead, 1965-68).

It was another ineffective outing by CC Sabathia, who continued his downward spiral with five runs allowed in five-plus innings. He’s now given up at least five runs in five straight starts, the first time he’s ever put together a streak like that in his career.

Opponents are crushing his sinker, slugging a ridiculous .633 off the pitch during this horrid five-game stretch, a 300-point increase from his first 11 starts of the season. The two-seamer has also lost its effectiveness as a weak-contact weapon for Sabathia: the pitch has a ground ball rate of just 28 percent in his last five outings compared to 49 percent in his first 11 games.

Feeling the heat in July
The Yankees avoided the sweep and kept the For Sale sign in the closet for at least another day as they beat the Red Sox, 3-1, on Sunday night. They overcame an early deficit to notch their 27th comeback win of the season — that’s a whopping 60 percent of their 45 total wins. Last year, only 46 percent (40 of 87) of their wins were of the come-from-behind variety.

Austin Romine plated the game-winning run with a two-out, tie-breaking RBI single in the fourth inning, but it was another masterful performance by Masahiro Tanaka that put the Yankees in position to end their post-break slump. Tanaka held the league’s most potent offense to just one run on three hits, striking out seven in six innings.

It’s hard to fathom where this team would be without Tanaka’s ace-like numbers this season:

  • He’s been consistently excellent at preventing runs: This was Tanaka’s 13th outing allowing two earned runs or fewer, tied with Chris Tillman and Aaron Sanchez for the most such starts among all AL pitchers this season.
  • He is at his best against the Yankees’ biggest rivals: Tanaka now has a 1.58 ERA in seven starts versus the AL East this season.
  • He is a streak-stopper: Tanaka improved to 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA in eight games following a Yankee loss this season.
  • He gives the team a chance to win every time: The Yankees are 14-5 in his starts and 31-41 when anyone else starts.

Tanaka’s been great.