Game 138: Sabathia Returns


When we last saw CC Sabathia, he pulled himself from a start due to ongoing trouble with his right knee. At one point it appeared he would not pitch again this season. Joe Girardi admitted that was a possibility. Instead, Sabathia is back on the mound tonight with a new knee brace after spending the minimum 15 days on the DL.

The Yankees have a firm hold on the top wildcard spot, but catching he Blue Jays for the top spot in the AL East will not be easy, even with all those head-to-head games remaining. They need Sabathia to pitch well and pitch often. Soak up some innings each time out. They need as many as they can get these days. Here is the O’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. DH Alex Rodriguez
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. LF Dustin Ackley (!)
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    LHP CC Sabathia

It is cloudy and humid in New York, and there is rain in the forecast tonight. It’s not supposed to start until 10pm ET or so, but it’ll then continue through the night. That could be a problem. Hopefully they get the game in before the sky opens up. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Brett Gardner (elbow) is feeling “much better” but has not yet played catch. He is available off the bench and is expected to play tomorrow … Sabathia (knee) has been activated off the DL, obviously. Rosters are expanded, so no other move was required.

Injury News: Nathan Eovaldi, Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira

And no one was ever healthy again. (Presswire)
And no one was ever healthy again. (Presswire)

Got a bunch of not particular good injury updates to pass along, which come from Brian Cashman via the plethora of beat reporters. Away we go:

  • It “sounds like” Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) will not be able to return during the regular season, said Cashman. That’s not good. Eovaldi could be in play for the postseason, however. He will be shut down two weeks, then begin a two-week throwing program. The regular season ends three weeks and five days from today.
  • As for replacing Eovaldi in the rotation, Cashman said Adam Warren will be stretched back and will soon make another start. Bryan Mitchell was mentioned as another option. A trade isn’t happening. “I think what you’re seeing is what we’ve got,” said the GM.
  • Brett Gardner has been trying to play through a jammed shoulder recently. He hurt himself crashing into a wall making a catch. Gardner, who is not in tonight’s lineup for the second straight day, received a platelet-rich plasma injection the Yankees hope will calm things down. He is available tonight if necessary.
  • Mark Teixeira (leg) received two injections to help relieve some nerve inflammation around the bone bruise in his shin. He’s still on crutches. Cashman admitted he “(does) wonder” whether Teixeira will be able to return this season. Well, at least the team has a viable fill-in at first base.

Brett Gardner is starting to come out of slump just in time for the Teixeira-less Yankees


Thanks to the Braves, the Yankees averaged a healthy 4.71 runs per game in August, right in line with the 4.88 runs per game they averaged from April through July. We all know the offense wasn’t quite that good last month though. The Yankees scored 38 runs in three games against Atlanta over the weekend and only 94 runs in the other 25 games, or 3.76 per game.

The team-wide offensive malaise last month was not the result of any one thing. It was a combination of things. Lots of players slumped, perhaps none moreso than Brett Gardner. The first time All-Star hit a weak .208/.304/.257 (61 wRC+) in August, easily his worst month of the season. Easily. His second worst month was the .252/.322/.421 (105 wRC+) batting line he put up in May.

Gardner has always been a better first half player, but not to this extreme. He’s a career .283/.360/.421 (116 wRC+) hitter in the first half and .240/.330/.356 (90 wRC+) in the second half. That 26 wRC+ point difference is pretty huge. Brett’s a first half player, no doubt. This year though? This year he hit .302/.377/.484 (139 wRC+) in the first half and is at .212/.318/.291 (74 wRC+) in the second half. That’s a 65 wRC+ point gap.

Anecdotally, it seems as though Gardner has been striking out more in the second half, but that’s not really the case. He had a 19.8% strikeout rate in the first half and has a 22.5% strikeout rate in the second half. Basically three extra strikeouts per 100 plate appearances. No big deal. His 23.3% strikeout rate in August wasn’t much worse either. So yes, he is striking out more, but not that much more.

Gardner’s plate discipline was fine in August, at least in the sense that it didn’t deviate from his season averages a whole lot. He swung at 20.7% of pitches out of the zone last month. His season rate is 21.4%. Gardner didn’t start hitting more grounders (39.8%) or pop-ups (6.9%) in August either. His season averages are 45.4% and 6.0%, respectively. Too pull happy? Not enough hard contact?

Brett Gardner batted ball data

Eh. Not too much of a difference there. The 6.7 percentage point drop in hard contact from the first half to the second half is disconcerting, but most of it shifted over to medium contact, not weak contact. Is that enough to explain Gardner’s .274 BABIP in August, by far his lowest month of the season? Maybe! The admittedly imperfect data suggests he was not hitting the ball as hard in August as he had earlier this season.

The more important question is why. Why isn’t Gardner hitting the ball as hard as he did earlier this season? It’s impossible to answer. It could be as simple as scorer bias — Baseball Info Solutions uses human stringers for their contact data, so one scorer’s hard hit ball could be another’s medium hit ball — or sample size issues. Maybe he’s playing hurt again. Remember, Gardner played through an abdominal strain in the second half last year, which was severe enough that he needed offseason surgery. Maybe his swing is a mess. There could be a million reasons.

Regardless of what exactly is causing Gardner’s slump, Gardner’s slump has hurt the offense overall these last few weeks. The good news is he is starting to come out it. Brett went deep last night and is 6-for-22 (.273) on the road trip, which is a heck of a lot better than what he did the rest of August. You have to squint your eyes, but the signs are there. Gardner’s hit the ball with some more authority of late, even his outs, which suggests he’s getting better swings.

Unless Gardner is playing hurt and we don’t know about it, I expect him to climb out of his slump soon enough. I have a hard time believing Brett is simply a bad hitter now. Great in the first half to zero in the second half? Not impossible, just unlikely. The Yankees will be without Mark Teixeira for the foreseeable future, so getting Gardner back on track as the No. 2 hitter is imperative. Runs are harder to come by these days, even moreso with Brett struggling.

RAB on CBS: More aggressive approach helps Gardner become an All-Star

With an assist from Alex Gordon’s groin injury, Brett Gardner was selected to his first All-Star Game last month. He was the only player in the AL with at least ten home runs and 15 stolen bases at the break.

Gardner has been one of the most productive Yankees since he became a full-time player in 2010, back when he was a speedy leadoff type. He still is that speedy leadoff type, but over the last few years Gardner has added more power to his game. He set a career high with eight home runs in 2013, more than doubled it with 17 last year, and he’s hit eleven so far this year.

Despite being a hitter who always sees a ton of pitches and works deep counts, 14 of Gardner’s 36 home runs since 2013 have come on the first or second pitch of the at-bat, and all 14 of those have come on fastballs. He hit just one homer within the first two pitches of the at-bat prior to 2013. Simply put, Gardner started ambushing more fastballs early in the count, leading to the increased power production.

Thanks to the wonders of BBWAA membership, I spoke to Gardner about his newfound aggressiveness and power spike, and while he downplayed the new approach, he did acknowledge making an effort to be more aggressive early in the count. He changed the scouting report, basically. Gardner no longer wanted to be known as a guy who will sit back and take hittable fastballs early in the count.

You can read about Gardner’s newfound aggressiveness at CBS’s Eye on Baseball. You are forewarned: there is an autoplay video in the post. Not my call. Sorry.

Other RAB on CBS posts: Eovaldi shuts down the running game

Saturday Links: A-Rod, Best Tools, 810 River Ave., CLEAR

(Tom Pennington/Getty)
(Tom Pennington/Getty)

The Yankees and Blue Jays resume their three-game series early this afternoon. Until then, check out these stray links and news items to help you pass the time.

Pre-game ceremony for A-Rod‘s 3,000th hit

This is rich. The Yankees will hold a special on-field pre-game ceremony for Alex Rodriguez‘s 3,000th career hit later this season, the team announced. It’ll be held Sunday, September 13th, before the team’s 1pm ET game against the Blue Jays. They ask you to be in your seats by 12:30pm ET. So just a few weeks after refusing to pay A-Rod his $6M home run milestone bonus because they claimed it was unmarketable, the Yankees are honoring Alex for his 3,000th hit. Guess they’re hoping for a late-season attendance bump.’s farm system rankings

Jim Callis posted his updated ranking of the top ten farm systems this week, and the Yankees placed tenth. I’m not sure where Callis had the Yankees coming into the season, but most other publications had them in the 18-25 range. “New York has position prospects at every spot on the diamond, including speedy shortstop Jorge Mateo (No. 99), sweet-swinging second baseman Robert Refsnyder and slugging catcher Gary Sanchez,” wrote Callis. I don’t know if the Yankees truly have a top ten system yet — this is just one person’s rankings, of course — but the system is clearly on the rise, even if Severino graduates to the big leagues before the end of the season.

Baseball America’s Best Tools

Baseball America published their annual Best Tools survey this week, in which they poll managers, coaches, scouts … basically everyone about the best players and best tools in their individual leagues. Several Yankees players and prospects appeared throughout the survey, so here’s a quick rundown:

All of the surveys are free, you don’t need a subscription, so click the links and you can read through each category and each league. Obviously this is all very subjective — I can’t imagine there are many Yankee fans who consider Gardner the best bunter in the AL — but I’ve always found it interesting and fun to see who coaches and scouts feel have the best skills.


New apartment tower being built next old Yankee Stadium site

According to Ondel Hylton, a new 17-story apartment building is being built on River Ave. between 157th and 158th Streets, on the old Ball Park Lanes site. (The bowling alley closed years ago.) The 134-unit building at 810 River Ave. is right across the street from the old Yankee Stadium site and is a few blocks away from the new Stadium. The neighborhood was re-zoned for buildings up to 30 stories back in 2009, and this is the first new high-rise going up in the area. Construction started in May.

CLEAR comes to Yankee Stadium

As you know, MLB mandated all 30 ballparks must have metal detectors at the entrances this season, which is a total pain. Couldn’t be any less convenient and, frankly, it doesn’t make me feel any safer. (Not that I’ve ever felt unsafe at a game, but that’s besides the point.) The Yankees recently partnered up with CLEAR to expedite the process, the team announced. It’s the same biometrics technology they use at airports for TSA pre-check. You can sign up at Gate 4, and, if approved, you’ll be able to simply scan your finger at a designated fast access lane and skip the whole metal detector process. Yankee Stadium is the third stadium with CLEAR technology, joining AT&T Park and Coors Field. So if you’ve ever wanted that airport experience at a ball park, this is your lucky day!

End of offensive slump has to start at the top of the lineup


By know you know the numbers. The Yankees were held to one run during their three-game series against the Blue Jays — that run was scored on a cheap Yankee Stadium homer too — leading to back-to-back shutouts on Saturday and Sunday. They were held to three singles in each of those two games. It was ugly. The offense scored 90 runs in ten games and then four runs in their next five games. Baseball, man.

The slump won’t last forever, we all know that, but the Yankees need it to end sooner rather than later to hold off the Blue Jays. The entire team stunk at the plate over the weekend, you can’t really point your finger at one or two culprits, but it’s clear who the Yankees need to get going the most: Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. We saw it earlier this year. Those two are game-changers atop the lineup.

The numbers are not pretty. Ellsbury went 0-for-12 with a walk in the series against the Blue Jays while Gardner went 2-for-8 (.250) with a walk. (Gardner sat in favor of Chris Young against David Price.) You’re usually not going to score many runs when the top two hitters in your lineup combine to reach base four times in a three-game series. The numbers since the All-Star break aren’t much better.

Ellsbury: .170/.216/.330 (43 wRC+) with 22.2 K% and 5.1 BB% in 99 plate appearances
Gardner: .206/.329/.265 (74 wRC+) with 20.2 K% and 13.1 BB% in 84 plate appearances

That’s a combined 183 plate appearances of gross from the two table-setters in the second half. Ellsbury and Gardner haven’t even attempted a stolen base since the break — that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is notable — and even with Gardner’s nice walk rate, No. 3 hitter Alex Rodriguez has batted with a runner on base in just 34 of his 92 plate appearances in the second half, or 37%. It was 167 of 348 in the first half (48%). The AL average this year is 42%.

Gardner has a history of performing better in the first half — he’s a career .283/.360/.421 (116 wRC+) hitter before the All-Star break and .242/.332/.359 (91 wRC+) after — though his second half performance this year is more of slump than a “this guy really sucks in the second half” thing. The chances of him hitting .206 with a .265 SLG the rest of the way are pretty damn small. Yes, he is a better hitter in the first half, and no, his performance these last few weeks is not his true talent level.

Ellsbury’s second half performance is a little more concerning just because he’s hasn’t really hit since coming back from his knee injury. It’s more of a “he hasn’t hit since coming off the DL” thing as opposed to a “he hasn’t hit in the second half” thing. The All-Star break is a convenient reference point but it is pretty arbitrary. Coming back from an injury isn’t really arbitrary. We’re talk about a player being physically compromised. Gardner’s been bad since the All-Star break. Ellsbury’s been bad since coming off the DL. There’s a difference.

It’s impossible to know whether the knee injury is having an impact on Ellsbury right now. It could just be a slump! Who knows? Ellsbury is not necessarily injury prone, but he does have a history of getting hurt and staying hurt longer than expected. Perhaps the knee injury is lingering and hurting him at the plate. It might even be a mental thing. The knee is healthy but he’s changed his hitting mechanics to protect it. Something like that. It happens all the time, often subconsciously.

If the knee is behind Ellsbury’s slump, well that could be either good or bad depending on how you want to look at it. It would be good in the sense that he has not lost any skills and will eventually get over the injury. We know what to point to. It would be bad in the sense that, uh, when will get over it? Injuries have a way of explaining things and making them more scary at the same time, especially a leg injury for a speed guy.

Regardless of whether Ellsbury’s knee is causing his current slump, he and Gardner have not produced in the second half, and that’s something that needs to change for the offense to get back on track. The Yankees dominated offensively for a few weeks earlier this season because those two guys were on base every other inning, it seemed. The sooner they get back on track — even just one of them getting on track would help — the sooner the offense gets back to normal.

Saturday Links: Gardner, Deadline, Ardizoia, Portalball

The bros in the front row dig Gardner's cleats. (Presswire)
The bros in the front row dig Gardner’s cleats. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Twins do not continue their three-game series until later tonight, so here are some links to help you pass the time.

Gardner Warned, Not Fined For White Cleats

Last weekend, Brett Gardner wore a set of white cleats during a game against the Mariners, which is against the league’s uniform rules. Apparently the Yankees have to wear cleats that are at least 51% black. Gardner had the cleats left over from the All-Star Game and CC Sabathia urged him to wear them in the game. Bryan Hoch says Gardner was warned by both MLB and the Yankees, but he wasn’t fined for the uniform infraction.

“I don’t think anyone came to my locker and took them, but I won’t be wearing them again. That was a one-time thing. I definitely got several warnings on that already — unofficial and official from the bottom all the way to the top,” said Gardner. Sabathia said he would have paid the fine since he talked Gardner into it. It’s silly, but the rules are the rules. Kinda funny to see Brett rebel like that.

Gardner Wins Heart & Hustle Award, Again

For the fourth time in the last six years, Brett Gardner has won the Yankees’ Heart & Hustle Award. Each team gives out the award annually to a “current player who not only excels on the field, but also best embodies the values, spirits and traditions of baseball.” All 30 winners can be seen right here. Gardner also won the award in 2010, 2013, and 2014. He is now eligible for the league-wide Heart & Hustle Award. The winner will be announced after the season.

MLB Will Consider Pushing Back Trade Deadline

Earlier this week, commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters MLB will consider pushing the trade deadline back from July 31st. The second wildcard has created a ton of parity and not every team is ready to sell at the end of July. Pushing the deadline back to, say, August 15th or 30th could beef up the market. Here’s what Manfred said, via Brendan Kuty:

“I think the July 31 deadline is something that we may want to revisit in the context of the revised playoff format,” Manfred said during an appearance at the Beyond Sports United symposium at Prudential Center. “Obviously when you have two additional opportunities to be in the playoffs, you have more teams in the hunt and they may want to wait a little longer before they make decisions.

“On the other hand, we want teams, the core of which have been together for the year, playing in the postseason so you have to just balance those two issues, I think.”

While I understand pushing the trade deadline back may be beneficial, I don’t love the idea. For starters, you’d be acquiring even less of a player if you make a deadline deal. Acquire a starter on July 31st and you get about 12 starts out of him. Push the deadline back a few weeks and you get what, eight starts? Maybe ten? Also, this could potentially hurt the bad teams legitimately looking to sell because clubs could wait longer to see who becomes available. I dunno, July 31st seems to work well. It’s basically the two-thirds point of the season. Heaven forbid teams have to decide whether to go for it by then.

Rugger Ardizoia, Oldest Living Yankee, Passes Away

Rinaldo “Rugger” Ardizoia, the oldest living Yankee, recently passed away at age 95 following a stroke, reports John Shea. Ardizoia was born in Italy, immigrated to San Francisco with his family when he was an infant, and played for the Yankees in 1947 after spending three years in the army. He appeared in just one MLB game, throwing two mop-up innings in a 15-5 loss to the St. Louis Browns. Here’s the box score. Ardizoia spoke to Louie Lazar about his playing career earlier this year. Condolences to his family and friends.

Eddie Robinson, 94, is now the oldest living Yankee according to the best available research. Robinson played most of his 13-year career with the Indians but did wear pinstripes from 1954-56. He was the team’s primary first baseman during that time.

"No, really, it's called Portalball." (Presswire)
“No, really, it’s called Portalball.” (Presswire)


Believe it or not, Joe Girardi has an app coming out next month, reports Dan Barbarisi. Girardi had a hand in designing the game and wanted something family friendly he could share with his kids. “It was just an idea that we could do with families. Kids connect on phones, and they connect with parents on phones. I know I text my kids a lot, and they respond quickly. It’s just another way to have connection with family,” he said. Here are the details from Barbarisi:

In Portalball, which appears to be set against the backdrop of an alien invasion of Earth, players compete in one of three phases of the game—hitting, pitching, and fielding—to deal with the portal invaders. As in the promotional video featuring Girardi and his fiery bat, players will bat, pitch, and field their way to success against their friends using balls flying in from portals all around them.

The game uses augmented reality technology, meaning that it takes over the phone or tablet’s camera and projects the image that the phone sees onto the phone’s screen. Users then play Portalball against that constantly shifting background, with portals opening seemingly out of the walls, ceilings, and floors of the room around them.

Alrighty then. Barbarisi says the original plan was to create a more traditional baseball game, but the app developer and Girardi tossed around a bunch of ideas and eventually decided on the sci-fi theme. Sounds neat, though I never play games on my phone, so I doubt I’ll be downloading Portalball. Just not my thing. The app will be available next month.