Yankeemetrics: The buy-or-sell rollercoaster [July 22-24]

(Getty)
(Getty)

Giant victory
Facing yet another first-place team on this make-or-break homestand, the Yankees pulled off a stunning victory over the Giants on Friday night. The Yankees entered this series with a 3-7 record in Interleague play this season, the worst in the American League and second-worst in the majors ahead of only the Reds (4-11).

Masahiro Tanaka outdueled Madison Bumgarner in a battle of aces, firing six shutout innings against the Giants. Tanaka has dominated NL competition during his major-league career, compiling a 1.88 ERA with 59 strikeouts and just six walks in nine Interleague starts. That’s the third-best Interleague ERA among active pitchers with at least seven starts, and the best for any Yankee pitcher that has ever made more than one start during Interleague play.

Tanaka has put together an ace-like resume this year, but one narrative clouding his season performance has been his sub-par numbers on normal rest.

He entered this game with a 5.33 ERA in eight starts on four days rest, a bloated figure compared to his 3.15 season ERA. The 2.18 difference in ERA between his 5.33 normal rest ERA and 3.15 overall ERA ranked fourth-highest among the 143 pitchers with at least five starts on four days rest this season.

Aroldis Chapman’s flame-throwing feats are becoming more and more ridiculous every day. On Friday night, 15 of his 17 pitches were fastballs, and each of the heaters was clocked at 100 mph or faster, with a whopping seven pitches topping out at 104 mph.

That’s now 11 pitches of at least 104 mph in his last two appearances combined (he had four on July 18), an unprecedented total considering that only three pitches of 104 or more mph had ever been recorded in the nine seasons of Statcast data (since 2008) before this week.

Chapman averaged a ridiculous 103.2 mph on his fastball against the Giants, the highest average fastball velocity in a game by any pitcher since 2008, per Statcast.

Bronx bummer
Less than 24 hours after celebrating one of their most uplifting wins of the season, the Yankees crashed back down to Earth with one of their most frustrating and crushing losses, falling 2-1 in 12 innings to the Giants on Saturday.

nova fist pump
(Getty)

Not only did they lose after playing a dozen innings in the brutal heat, but they also failed numerous times in the clutch (went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position) and wasted a gem from their fifth starter (seven innings and one run allowed by Ivan Nova).

And to pile on the depressing facts, they whiffed on a chance to reach three games over .500 for the first time this season, and — because the Blue Jays lost earlier in the day — could have pulled to within three games in the loss column of the second wild card spot if they had somehow won the game.

Instead, the Yankees’ momentum was halted and they suffered yet another disheartening defeat in a season filled with far too many of them already.

It was just the third time the Yankees have lost an Interleague game at home that lasted at least 12 innings. The others were a 6-2 loss on April 18, 2013 to the Diamondbacks and a 2-1 loss on June 12, 2001 against the Expos (both games went 12 innings, too).

This isn’t the first time Nova has been stellar against the Giants; he threw a six-hit shutout in San Francisco on Sept. 12, 2013 in his only other appearance against them. He now owns a shiny 0.56 career ERA against the Giants, the lowest mark among active pitchers that have made more than one start versus the franchise (LOL, small sample sizes).

(AP)
(AP)

Yankees Last (home)Stand
The Yankees seemingly staved off an imminent fire sale for yet another day by capping off this make-or-break homestand with a solid series win against the first-place Giants.

They climbed back up to two games above .500, tying their high-water mark of the season. It marked the 33rd time the Yankees finished a game with a record within two games of the magical .500 mark, the second-longest streak of that kind in franchise history, per the Elias Sports Bureau. The only longer one was a 42-game streak in 2008.

Carlos Beltran opened the scoring in the first inning with his 413th career home run, passing Alfonso Soriano for sole possession of 52nd place on the all-time list. Up next is Darrell Evans with 414.

Mark Teixeira added a solo shot of his own in the next frame, his 200th homer in pinstripes. He is just the fourth Yankee switch-hitter to reach that milestone, and also the fourth first baseman in franchise history with at least 200 homers. His fellow Yankee switch-hitters in the 200-homer club are Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Mickey Mantle; the other first baseman are Jason Giambi, Don Mattingly and Lou Gehrig.

Nathan Eovaldi‘s erratic season has mirrored the Yankees’ inconsistency, so it was little surprise that he delivered a standout performance (two runs allowed in 6 2/3 innings) on the same day the Yankees actually looked like a contender. What is surprising is that one of his best outings came against the Giants, a team that he’s historically struggled against.

Eovaldi entered the game with a 13.30 ERA in five starts versus San Francisco, the second-highest ERA by any active MLB pitcher against a single opponent (min. five starts). The highest mark is by Dana Eveland, who boasts a 16.11 ERA in 10 games (five starts) against the Red Sox.

Yankeemetrics: Many questions, no answers [July 18-21]

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

The winning formula
Inconsistency has been the theme of this year’s Yankees team, but they have been remarkably consistent in one thing: their winning formula. Combine solid starting pitching with justenough offense to get a slim lead thru six innings, and then unleash their high-powered, flame-throwing bullpen trio to seal the victory.

The plan worked to perfection on Monday night as the Yankees opened their series against the AL East-leading Orioles with a 2-1 win.

Alex Rodriguez sparked the lineup with a towering home run to left field in the second inning. It was just his second homer at Yankee Stadium this season. A-Rod entered the game with a .226 slugging percentage in home games, the second-worst in the majors among players with at least 100 plate appearances.

The blast was his 69th against the Orioles, breaking a tie with Harmon Killebrew for the fifth-most hit against the franchise. The four guys ahead of him are Babe Ruth (96), Lou Gehrig (92), Jimmie Foxx (87) and Ted Williams (80).

And one more milestone for A-Rod: that homer was also his 1,578th hit in a Yankee uniform, passing Wally Pipp for 17th place on the franchise all-time hits list.

Aroldis Chapman’s blazing fastball was in peak form as he closed out the game for his 19th save. Per Statcast, his 1-2 pitch to J.J. Hardy reached 105.1 mph, matching the fastest pitch ever recorded by Statcast dating back to 2008. Chapman also threw a pitch that went that fast on Sept. 24, 2010 to Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Chapman hit 104 mph on three other pitches in the inning, and Ryan Flaherty actually put one of those heaters in play … barely. Chapman’s 0-2 fastball to him was clocked at 104.9 mph and broke his bat, resulting in an easy grounder for the final out of the game. That was the fastest pitch put in play by a batter in the Statcast era (since 2008).

(Getty)
(Getty)

#TeamBuy
A funny thing happened on the way to the Trade Deadline … the Yankees decided to build some momentum and hold off the cries to SELL!!! for another day as they routed the Orioles, 7-1.

Starlin Castro has hardly been a consistent run producer during his debut campaign in pinstripes, but he’s definitely come up huge at times this season. His two-run blast in the second inning gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish in this must-win game.

It was his 11th homer of the season (matching his total from last year) and his sixth that gave the Yankees a lead. That’s the most go-ahead homers of any Yankee this season.

Jacoby Ellsbury made sure the fans in the Bronx would witness history on Tuesday night when he reached base via catcher’s interference for the ninth time this season, breaking the major-league record set by Roberto Kelly in 1992. The number becomes even more ridiculous when you consider that every other player in the American League has combined for six catcher’s interferences this season.

Huge Mike
The Yankees continued their desperate push toward contender status with another victory and another dominant performance from their pitching staff on Wednesday night. It was their fourth straight win overall and the fourth game in a row they allowed no more than one run and no more than five hits.

This is the first time since 1932 that the Yankees have put together a four-game win streak at home, giving up one run or fewer and five hits or fewer in each game.

pineda
(Getty)

The Yankees took an early 1-0 lead thanks a leadoff triple by Brett Gardner and a Carlos Beltran sac fly in the bottom of the first. That snapped a franchise-record 23-game scoreless streak in the first inning dating back nearly a month. Remember, this is a team that last year led the majors with 125 runs scored in the first frame.

Carlos Beltran capped off the scoring, too, with a solo homer in the eighth inning to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead. It was his 20th homer, making him just the second switch hitter to hit 20 home runs in his age-39 season or older. Eddie Murray reached that milestone in both 1995 and 1996, at age 39 and 40.

Michael Pineda spun a gem as he pitched six scoreless innings for his first win since June 7. He featured a nasty, sharp slider that baffled the Orioles lineup, netting him a whopping 18 whiffs and six of his eight punch outs. The 18 swings-and-misses are the most that any pitcher has gotten with a slider in any game this season, one more than Clayton Kershaw had against the Blue Jays on May 7.

Back to losing
The Yankees had their confidence-boosting four-game win streak snapped on Thursday afternoon, failing to complete the sweep thanks to a listless 4-1 loss. Their all-too-familiar anemic offense mustered just one run on five hits, the 20th time in 95 games that they’ve been held to no more than a single run. The only other AL team with 20 games of zero or one run scored this season is the last-place Tampa Bay Rays.

CC Sabathia had little to celebrate on his 36th birthday as his downward spiral deepened with another discouraging outing (four runs, seven hits, 6 2/3 innings). He’s now given up at least seven hits and four runs in each of his last six starts, the first time in his career he put together a six-game streak with that many hits and runs allowed in each game.

Coincidental or not, the large lefty has historically struggled on his birthday as a major-leaguer. He’s now 0-3 with a 6.99 ERA in five starts on July 21 and his team has lost all five games.

Trade Deadline Notes: Beltran, Royals, Nationals, Rangers

(Harry How/Getty)
(Harry How/Getty)

Thanks to last night’s win over the BoSox, the Yankees improved their postseason odds to … 5.2%. That’s not so good. Ownership still has not whether to buy or sell at the trade deadline according to Buster Olney, which is no surprise. I’m guessing they won’t make that decision until the very last moment. I just hope none of their top trade chips get hurt between now and then. Anyway, here are some miscellaneous trade notes.

Yankees, Royals talked Beltran

According to George King, the Yankees and Royals discussed a trade involving Carlos Beltran earlier this season. Apparently reliever Luke Hochevar’s name came up. The Royals are short on offense at the moment and they have a huge hole in right field, so while Beltran doesn’t fit their mold as a premium defender, he’d sure as heck improve their lineup. Remember, Kansas City tried to sign Beltran as a free agent two offseason ago.

Hochevar being part of trade talks is interesting if not a little weird. He’s a solid middle reliever (3.86 ERA and 3.83 FIP) and an impending free agent, but trading rental Beltran for a rental reliever makes no sense for the Yankees. I think Hochevar would have been part of the deal as a way to offset money on Kansas City’s end. (He’s making $6M total this year.) Beltran for Hochevar and a prospect or two seems like the final outcome there. There’s no word on whether talks were serious or are ongoing.

Yankees scouting Nationals, Triple-A affiliate

The Yankees spent the weekend scouting the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate and will cover the big league team this week, reports Barry Svrluga. It’s hard not notice Washington will be calling up pitching prospect Reynaldo Lopez from Triple-A to make his MLB debut tomorrow night. Pitching prospects Austin Voth and A.J. Cole are currently with Triple-A Syracuse as well.

Lopez, who Baseball America ranked as the 48th best prospect in baseball in their midseason top 100, has long been speculated as a possible trade target for New York. That said, he didn’t pitch in Triple-A this weekend, so Yankees’ scouts in Syracuse didn’t see him. He threw an inning in the Futures Game in San Diego on Sunday. Voth and Cole pitched Friday and Saturday in Triple-A, respectively, for what’s it worth. The Nationals have interest in Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, so it’s no surprise the Yankees are scouting their system. They’re scouting everyone’s system.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Rangers want Yankees to take on money in potential Miller trade

According to Jeff Wilson, the Rangers would like the Yankees to eat some money in a potential Miller trade. Miller is owed whatever is left of his $9M salary this season plus another $9M in both 2017 and 2018. That’s certainly very reasonable given his on-field production, but who knows what Texas’ financials look like. A $9M a year reliever may not be feasible to them.

Of course, given their financial might, the Yankees should be willing to eat money to facilitate any trade as long as it means a greater package of players coming back. It seems silly to pay someone as good as Miller to play elsewhere, but you know what? If it’s the difference between getting a very good prospect and an elite prospect, why not? The Yankees have the money. That’s a good way to leverage their financial firepower.

Cubs, others continue to scout Yankees

Yet another high-ranking Cubs official was at Yankee Stadium this weekend, presumably to scout their bullpen pieces, reports George King. They’ve now had three different scouts and pro scouting director Jared Porter watch New York’s end-game relievers in recent weeks. That ain’t routine coverage. The Cubs are getting multiple eyes on these guys because they want as much information as possible before getting serious about a trade.

King says the Braves, Rangers, Marlins, Cardinals, Nationals, Royals, and Giants have also been scouting the Yankees recently. I’m not quite sure what the Braves were doing there. Maybe they were checking guys out in the case the Yankees decide to buy or something? The other five clubs all make sense though. They’re all contending and they all have some kind of clear need New York may be able to address via trade. The deadline is exactly two weeks away.

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.

Injury Updates: Beltran, Teixeira, Mitchell

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Today is the final day off the All-Star break. The Yankees open the second half with the first of three against the Red Sox tomorrow night. Their next 13 games are against contending teams (Red Sox, Orioles, Giants, Astros), so that’s going to be pretty fun. Here are some miscellaneous injury updates.

Beltran’s hamstring is 100%

Two nights ago, when Carlos Beltran played two innings in right field during the All-Star Game, it was his first appearance in the outfield in exactly a week. He served as the DH in the final five games of the first half because of a balky hamstring. After the game, Beltran told Joel Sherman he is 100%. “I want to give (Joe Girardi) the ability to be flexible with the DH role,” he said.

Beltran, 39, has had minor knee and hamstring problems this year. He did not have to be placed on the DL either time, but the knee had to be drained and the hamstring meant no outfield for a week. Beltran’s importance to the Yankees in the second half can’t be overstated. If they’re going to contend, they need him in the lineup because he’s their best hitter. If they’re going to sell, they want him healthy to get the maximum return.

Teixeira receives another knee injection

Following Sunday’s first half finale, Mark Teixeira received another lubrication in his right knee, reports Mark Feinsand. It was a scheduled injection and he’ll get a few more in the second half. “It’s important that we have him,” said Girardi. “If it’s four out of five days, five out of six, that’s pretty good. I have to check with him all the time.”

The 36-year-old Teixeira sat out Saturday’s game as the Yankees work to keep the knee in check and keep Teixeira on the field. He’s yet to play more than four games in a row since coming off the DL, and I don’t think Girardi will push him much more than that. Teixeira will need surgery at some point. He’s hoping the regular lubrication injections will allow him to push the surgery back until the offseason.

Mitchell resumes running and throwing

Bryan Mitchell, who managed to break his toe covering first base in Spring Training, has starting running and throwing, Girardi told George King. “He has been throwing and he has started to run a little bit so I think it’s possible we get him back, but (I’m) not necessarily counting on it,” said Girardi. “His rehab has gone really well.”

Mitchell, 25, had surgery on the toe in early-April, and the original timetable put his return at four months. That would put him on target to be back sometime in August. The Yankees are not going to push Mitchell hard. I know a toe injury sounds silly, but the last thing they want him to do is change his mechanics to compensate for the toe — that could happen subconsciously — and hurt his arm.

Trade Deadline Notes: Giants, Teixeira, Beltran, Miller

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

The trade deadline is now two weeks and five days away, and the Yankees should be leaning towards selling at this point. Should is the key word there. This team doesn’t always do things it should do. Anyway, here are some trade deadline notes.

Yankees don’t see Giants as trade match

According to Hank Schulman, the Yankees don’t see the Giants as a good match for a potential Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman trade. San Francisco definitely needs bullpen help, but their farm system is thin and they’re contending, so it’s unlikely they’ll deal off their big league roster. I wrote a little more about that a few weeks ago. Of course, this could all be posturing. The Yankees may be trying to put some pressure on the Giants to up their offer.

Teixeira not ready to discuss no-trade clause

When asked about possibly waiving his no-trade rights at the deadline, Mark Teixeira danced around the question, writes Ken Davidoff. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” he said. Teixeira has full no-trade protection through five-and-ten rights at this point, so his contract is irrelevant. I know he’s stunk this year and it sounds silly to talk about him as a trade candidate, but Mike Morse had a 63 wRC+ and was traded twice at the deadline last year. If some team has a need at first base and is looking for some pop, getting Teixeira on the cheap could be mighty appealing. I don’t think he’s going anywhere — nor do I think he’d agree to a trade — but he’s not untradeable. Pretty much no one is.

Beltran open to trade to NL team

Unlike Teixeira, Carlos Beltran does not have a full no-trade clause. He has limited no-trade protection, and he told Davidoff the 15-team no-trade list includes “a little bit of both” leagues without disclosing the teams. Beltran did say he’s open to going to the NL though, even though he won’t be able to DH. “Why not? DH is great, but I played all my life in the outfield, so there’s nothing wrong with it. I just want to play baseball, man,” he said. There, figure to be a lot of outfielders on the trade market at the deadline (Melvin Upton, Josh Reddick, Carlos Gonzalez, Jay Bruce, etc.), but none come close to matching Beltran’s combination of 2016 production and pedigree.

Yankees told Miller he’ll be traded if they get blown away

From the “this applies to everyone” department: the Yankees have informed Miller they will trade him at the deadline if someone blows them away with an offer, reports Chelsea James. Like I said, that applies to every player ever. I guess it’s notable the Yankees were compelled to tell Miller that’s the case, but that might not be uncommon. Non-news, really. Miller is awesome and signed affordably for another two years. Keeping him is definitely a viable strategy even with the Yankees in need of more young talent. Miller is not “just a reliever.” Kirby Yates is just a reliever. Miller’s a high impact player.

2016 Midseason Review: The Outfielders

Now that the All-Star break has arrived, it’s time to look back and review the first half of the season. We’ve already looked at the catchers and infielders. Now it’s time to cover the outfielders.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have been making an effort to get younger over the last 20 months or so, but the one place they’ve been unable to do so is the outfield. They’re locked into three veterans making good to great money, and despite their efforts to move one of them over the winter, the Yankees didn’t get an offer they liked.

Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran returned as the starting outfield this season, and all three have been among the most productive players on the team. In fact, along with Didi Gregorius and Brian McCann, I’d said they were three of the Yankees’ five most productive players in the first half. Let’s review their seasons.

Carlos Beltran: Still Great After All These Years

Last April, Beltran looked done. Like done done. He was 38 and coming off surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow, and he was caught so far between fastballs and offspeed stuff that it seemed like he was guessing at the plate. It was ugly. But, once the calendar flipped to May, Beltran raked the rest of the way, and it’s carried over into this season.

Beltran was, by no small margin, the team’s best hitter in the first half. He’s hitting .299/.338/.550 (132 wRC+) with 19 homers in 320 plate appearances, and he leads the Yankees in … drum roll, please … AVG, SLG, ISO, OPS, OPS+, wOBA, wRC+, doubles, homers, and RBI. Pretty much everything except OBP. (He’s fourth in OBP.) Carlos is 17th among the 167 qualified hitters in SLG and 21st in ISO, and he’s 19th among all players in homers. He hasn’t hit for this kind of power since he was in the prime of his career with the Mets.


Source: FanGraphsCarlos Beltran

The signs of aging are there. Beltran walks less (5.3%) and strikes out more (18.4%) than he did during his prime, and good fastballs have given him a hard time, but otherwise he’s still a very smart hitter with power who seems to have a knack for understanding how he’s being pitched. He’s even hitting lefties better than he has in years, putting up a 167 wRC+ against southpaws in 2016 after having a 75 wRC+ against them from 2014-15.

Beltran’s offense has been better than I think anyone could have reasonably expected. Even as good as he was from May through the end of the season last year, it wasn’t crazy to think the 39-year-old would slip some this year. That’s baseball. Instead, Beltran has been a monster at the dish and he has been since Opening Day, really. He hasn’t had any sort of extended slump this year. Most players will hit the skids for two or three weeks at some point. Not Carlos.

As you know, offense is pretty much the only Beltran provides these days. He doesn’t run well and he’s a terrible defender in right field. The Yankees have been able to give him more time at DH this year, first because Alex Rodriguez got hurt, and then because they’re flat out benching A-Rod. Beltran seems to be running better this year than the last two years, and call me a cynic, but I can’t help but that think that’s tied to his upcoming free agency. He’s playing for a contract and might be in a little better shape this year. Either well, Beltran has been the team MVP so far.

Second Half Outlook: One of three things will happen: One, the Yankees remain in the postseason hunt and they keep Beltran for a second half push. Two, the Yankees fall out of the race and trade Beltran to a contender at the deadline. Three, the Yankees don’t contend and don’t trade Beltran. Clearly, the third option would be the worst. I’d like to see the Yankees contend, but the team isn’t cooperating, which makes a trade the best outcome. Carlos definitely played his way into some nice trade value in the first half.

Jacoby Ellsbury: Separating The Player From The Contract

(Dustin Bradford/Getty)
(Dustin Bradford/Getty)

It’s impossible to look at Ellsbury and assess his play without thinking about his contract. He’s a good player making great player money, and so far this season Ellsbury has been exactly that: a good player. He owns a .279/.347/.398 (100 wRC+) batting line with four homers and 16 steals, and he’s stayed mostly healthy too. That’s always a question, unfortunately.

Ellsbury actually started this season rather slowly, hitting .235/.278/.341 (62 wRC+) with one homer and five steals in eight attempts in April. He’s since hit .297/.373/.421 (115 wRC+) with three homers and eleven steals in 15 chances. Ellsbury has also walked (9.9%) nearly as often as he’s struck out (10.7%). We haven’t seen the disruptive baserunning this year, which could be a product of age — 32-year-olds usually don’t run much — or a minor hip injury he dealt with earlier this season.

Defensively, Ellsbury has settled in after a weirdly poor start to the season. His days as a Gold Glover are over and really, at some point during the life of his contract he’ll have to shift to left field. Not too many 33+ year olds are running around playing center at a high level these days. Ellsbury’s range is still good and his arm … well sometimes his throws reach the cutoff man on one hop. Let’s leave it at that.

Relative to his contract, Ellsbury is performing well-below expectations and he’s not likely to get better as he approaches his mid-30s. Relative to other center fielders, Ellsbury is a solid player who is worth a roster spot on a contending team. When he gets hot, he gets really hot and can raise hell with his bat and his legs. He’s just not someone you want to pay $20M+ a year. What’s done is done though. Ellsbury has shaken off that slow start and is one of the more productive players on the team.

Second Half Outlook: Last season Ellsbury started well, then crashed horribly after returning from a knee injury. He’s healthy now and the outlook going forward is much more promising. Ellsbury is a good all-around player, and now that he’s hitting second rather than leading off, he figures to get some more opportunities to do damage with men on base. For the Yankees to have any chance at the postseason, Ellsbury is probably going to have to play at an All-Star level in the second half. He’s vital to their success.

Brett Gardner: Same Ol’ Brett, Just Without The Power

Brett Gardner is one boring baseball player. He’s hitting .257 with a .353 OBP this season. Last year he hit .256 with a .343 OBP. His career averages? A .263 AVG and a .346 OBP. Boring! Outliers are much more fun. Gardner is reliably productive each and every year even though a large segment of the fan base seems to think otherwise.

The difference between 2016 Gardner and pre-2016 Gardner is his power, which was never his calling card anyway, but still. Look:


Source: FanGraphsBrett Gardner

Gardner hit his power peak at ages 29-31 thanks in part to former hitting coach Kevin Long, who got him to be a little more aggressive and hunt fastballs early in the count. Gardner’s power peak was basically a league average ISO, but this year he’s well below that with a .098 ISO. He’s hit five homers this year, his fewest in the first half since 2011, when he hit four. (Not counting his injury shortened 2012 season.)

Gardner’s power outage is tied directly to his ground ball percentage. He’s put a career-high 55.2% of his batted balls on the ground this year, up from 45.3% last year and 41.7% the year before. Furthermore, when he pulls the ball, Gardner is putting it on the ground 69.9% of the time. Two years ago it was 49.7%. That’s no way for a left-handed hitter to take advantage of Yankee Stadium‘s short right field porch.

Offensively, Gardner is doing just about everything he usually does except hit the ball out of the park. He’s hitting in the .255-.260 range, he’s drawing a ton of walks (11.6%), and he’s going to end up with 20+ steals again. The over-the-fence power isn’t there like it has been the last few years though. Don’t get me wrong, no one was expecting Gardner to swat 20+ dingers this year, but he might not even get to ten this season.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

On top of the offense is Gardner’s defense, which remains comfortably above-average and actually seems better this year than it was the last two years. Maybe it’s just me. The various stats like UZR and DRS agree, but eh. Let’s not rely on half-seasons of defensive stats. Between the solid defense and team-leading OBP, Gardner is once again one of the most productive players on the Yankees. His power has gone missing, and the Yankees have compensated by putting him in the leadoff spot, where the lack of pop is less of an issue.

Second Half Outlook: Gardner has a recent history of fading in the second half, but as long as he’s healthy, I expect him to be rock solid. I suppose the Yankees could look to trade him as part of a deadline sell-off, though they figure to push Beltran a little harder in trade talks given his status as an impending free agent. As with Ellsbury, the Yankees will need Gardner to produce at a high level to make a run at a postseason spot.