Yankeemetrics: The terrible Twinkies [June 16-19]

(Getty)
(Getty)

Sabathia heating up
There haven’t been many enjoyable things to watch with this year’s Yankees team, but one of them undoubtedly is the masterful, turn-back-the-clock season of CC Sabathia.

He continued his brilliance on Thursday, working out of several jams to pitch six innings of one-run ball in the Yankees’ 4-1 win over the Twins. He put 10 guys on base but stranded nine of them, consistently generating weak ground ball outs to end rallies and finish off innings. His ground ball rate of 70.6 percent was his highest in a start this season.

Sabathia also dialed up the heat on his pitches and seemed to get stronger as the game wore on. His cutter (91.5 mph), sinker (93.3 mph) and slider (82.4 mph) each had their highest average velocities in a game this season, and he maintained that velocity as he approached 100-plus pitches late into his outing.

The large lefty now has a 0.82 ERA in his last seven starts, the lowest among all pitchers with at least 30 innings since the start of May through Thursday. Sure, that’s an arbitrary endpoint, but consider this: Clayton Kershaw’s best ERA over a seven-start span this year is 0.81 and his best seven-game mark last year was 0.82.

Didi Gregorius provided the margin of victory with a tie-breaking three-run homer in the seventh inning off lefty specialist Fernando Abad. The Twins reliever entered the game having allowed only three hits in 30 at-bats against lefty hitters this season, and had yet to surrender a longball to anyone. Didi, of course, entered the game with the best batting average among left-handed batters against left-handed pitchers in MLB this season — and won the strength-versus-strength battle.

The blast was also his second three-run homer in three games, which gives us this #funfact: Didi is the first Yankee shortstop to hit multiple three-run home runs in a three-game span since Roy Smalley, who hit two of them in a game against the Royals on Sept. 5, 1982.

Tanaka time
There’s nothing like a trip to the Twin Cities to cure those losing-streak blues. The Yankees continued to pound a bad Twins team on Friday night, winning 8-2 thanks a balanced offense that scored early and often to support a stellar performance by Masahiro Tanaka.

Tanaka bounced back from a rough start last week against the Tigers, throwing eight innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts and no walks. It was his 11th game allowing two earned runs or fewer, the most such starts among all American League pitchers through Friday’s slate.

The outing also marked his fifth straight start on the road with at least six innings pitched and no more than one earned run allowed. Only one other pitcher in franchise history has fashioned a streak like that in a single season: Whitey Ford, who did it in 1950, 1963 and 1964.

(AP)
(AP)

Comeback kids
Down 4-0 heading into the eighth inning, Saturday’s game seemed destined to end in another frustrating loss. But then the Twins remembered who they were (a very bad baseball team), the Yankees remembered where they were playing (Target Field; aka Yankee Stadium Midwest), and their bats came alive to spark another late-inning rally. In the end, the Bronx Bombers had their first win this season when trailing after seven innings.

Alex Rodriguez — who was riding a season-high 11-game homerless streak entering this game — cut the deficit in half with a two-run blast in the seventh inning. That hit gave him 5,795 career total bases, passing Babe Ruth (5,793) for sixth place on the all-time MLB list.

Carlos Beltran then tied the game with an opposite-field homer in the eighth inning off Kevin Jepsen. His 18 homers are the most by any Yankee age 38 or older this early into the season, one more than Babe Ruth had through 68 team games in 1933.

Jacoby Ellsbury capped the comeback win with a bases-loaded RBI single in the next frame. It was the first time since joining the Yankees three seasons ago that he delivered a go-ahead hit in the ninth inning.

Aroldis Chapman made things interesting in the ninth inning as he tried to close out the game. He surrendered back-to-back two-out homers to Eduardo Escobar and Kurt Suzuki, which sliced the lead to 7-6, before he eventually got the save. Suzuki’s shot came off a 102 mph fastball, the fastest pitch ever hit for a home run by any player in the Pitch F/X era (since 2008).

(AP)
(AP)

Sweep-less in Minneapolis
As much as the Yankees have dominated the Twins in Minneapolis recently, they couldn’t complete the four-game sweep this weekend, blowing an early lead and losing 7-4 on Sunday afternoon.

The Yankees entered the final game of this series with a 19-5 record in the regular season at Target Field (and 2-0 in the postseason), a mark that was notable in several ways. It was the:

  • highest win percentage at Target Field by any AL team
  • highest win percentage at any stadium by any team since 2010 (when Target Field opened)
  • highest win percentage for the Yankees at any park over the last 100 seasons (min. 20 games)

The loss was even more improbable given the opposing starter, Ervin Santana, who had a 7.71 ERA in his previous five outings this season and who hadn’t beaten the Yankees since August 1, 2008. His streak of 11 straight starts without a win against New York was the longest active winless streak versus the team by any starting pitcher.

Brian McCann broke out of his hitting slump in style, crushing two homers deep into the right-field seats and beyond; according to Statcast, they traveled 421 and 450 feet. Since 2008 (as far back as Statcast has batted ball distance), the only other Yankee with two homers of at least 420 feet in the same game was A-Rod on July 25 last season, also at Target Field against the Twins.

Saturday Links: Miller, Beltran, Teixeira, YES, Jeter

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Twins continue their four-game series later this afternoon. Here are some links to help you pass the time until first pitch.

Yankees want “sure things” for Miller

From the “no duh” rumor mill: the Yankees are seeking “sure things” in return in any Andrew Miller trade, reports Jon Heyman. I guess that means they want MLB ready young talent, not prospects who are a year or two away from the big leagues. Makes sense, right? No need to settle for lottery tickets when you’re dealing a player of Miller’s caliber. Either get players who can help you right now or keep the reasonably priced elite reliever who is under contract two more years. The Yankees don’t have to move Miller, after all. If someone wants him, it’ll cost them.

Yankees, Beltran have not talked new contract

Another one from the “no duh” rumor mill: the Yankees and impending free agent Carlos Beltran have not yet had any talks about a new contract, so says Barry Bloom. This shouldn’t be a surprise at all. Beltran is having an awesome season, but he’ll be 40 next April, and the Yankees have a small army of outfielders in Triple-A. They’ve been going young pretty much everywhere possible — and they absolutely need to do that, in my opinion — and part of that is letting Beltran go and replacing him with one of the many younger options. There’s nothing wrong with having a courtesy chat about a new deal, but yeah, this ain’t happening.

Teixeira admits to thinking about retirement

Chances are Mark Teixeira is in his final season as a Yankee — they could bring him back next year as Greg Bird insurance, though I would be surprised — but he has already said he’d like to play five more years. That doesn’t mean he isn’t thinking about retirement though. Here’s what Teixeira said during a recent radio interview when asked about retirement, via Joe Giglio:

“Yea, it’s in the back of mind mind,” Teixeira said. “Absolutely. Even last year when I broke my leg on a fluke foul ball. I’m having a great season and we’re in first place and I break my leg. I’m like, ‘Man, is this ever going to stop?’ You think about how much longer do I want to do this. But you get through it. You have those frustrating times. You joke around when you’re on the DL and think it’s rock bottom watching your team on TV. But you get through and when you get back and hit a couple home runs, you think this is fun again. Hopefully, I’ll get through it this season and perform and help the team. Then we’ll sit down and discuss it as a family as far as what I want to do.”

I can’t imagine thinking and talking about retirement can be an easy thing for a pro athlete. They’re facing the inevitability of walking away from pretty much the only thing they’ve ever known. Teixeira’s been dealing with all these injuries the last few years and you know no one wants to go out like that.

YES ratings down 10% in 2016

According to Richard Morgan, YES Network ratings are down 10% from last season. They’re averaging a little more than 230,000 viewers per game these days. YES averaged nearly 400,000 viewers per game from 2002-11, when the Yankees were in their heyday and contending every year. This isn’t unexpected, right? The Yankees are bad and when teams are bad, ratings (and attendance) drop. Hopefully it doesn’t lead to the team doing something stupid, like trying to spend their way back into contention in a weak free agent market this winter.

Jeter-Davis wedding set for July 2nd

How about we close with some happy news? According to Emily Smith, Derek Jeter and Hannah Davis will be getting married on July 2nd, so two weeks from today. Smith says it’ll be a small family and close friends only ceremony in Napa, and they “want to start a family and have kids right away.” Are those kids gonna have the best genes ever, or what? Also, various social media accounts sure make it seem like Jeter is out doing the bachelor party thing with Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, and Andruw Jones. That is some serious #squadgoals right there.

Game 64: I thought the Rocky Mountains would be a little rockier than this

(Getty)
(Getty)

Pretty much the only thing I enjoy about interleague play these days is the novelty of watching the Yankees play in different ballparks. This is their fourth trip to Coors Fields ever, though they were here as recently as 2013. You may remember Vernon Wells played third base in one of those games. Man, 2013 was weird as hell.

The Yankees closed a generally fantastic homestand — we all would have signed up for 5-2 ahead of time, right? right — with two losses to the Tigers, which is annoying. They play their next eleven games against the Rockies and Twins, so if the Yankees are ever going to climb the standings and make a run at a postseason spot, now is the time to do it. It starts tonight. Here is the Rockies’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. 1B Rob Refsnyder
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. RF Aaron Hicks
  9. RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Looks like the Yankees will get some very nice weather during their two-day trip to Denver. It was sunny all day and the sky is clear. First pitch is scheduled for 8:40pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Carlos Beltran woke up with a sore knee and is unavailable. “It’s a little worrisome,” said Joe Girardi. Beltran is not scheduled to go for any tests and the hope is he’ll be able to play tomorrow.

Yankeemetrics: Welcome back to under .500 [June 10-12]

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Vintage CC
They say that Father Time is undefeated … but right now CC Sabathia is giving him a heck of a battle. Sabathia wrote yet another chapter in his amazing renaissance season, shutting down the Tigers with seven scoreless innings in the Yankees 4-0 win on Friday night.

Sabathia dropped his ERA to 2.28, the lowest it’s been through the first 10 starts of any season in his career. The big lefty ended April with a mediocre 5.06 ERA, but has been brilliant since the calendar turned to May. In 38 innings over six starts since then, he’s allowed just 23 hits — only four of them for extra bases — and has a hard-to-believe 0.71 ERA.

Through Friday, that was the best ERA by any pitcher since May 1 (min. 30 innings), just ahead of Madison Bumgarner (0.96) and Clayton Kershaw (0.99). It also marks the best six-start stretch — in terms of ERA — for Sabathia during his entire career. His previous best was 0.76 from June 25 to July 21, 2011.

Sabathia isn’t blowing away hitters with high-90s fastballs anymore, but rather he’s using his cutter and sinker effectively to generate a ton of weak contact.

He got two more pop ups on Friday, increasing his rate of infield fly balls to a major-league-best 19.0 percent. His soft-contact rate of 38.1 percent against the Tigers was his second-highest single-game mark this year, and he now ranks second among AL starters in that metric (25.4 percent). And thanks to such a dominant outing on Friday, his average exit velocity allowed on batted balls fell to 85.6 mph, also the second-lowest by any AL starter entering the weekend.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Goodbye, win streak …
On paper, Saturday’s game seemed like a matchup heavily in the Yankees favor: They were 18-6 vs. the Tigers at the new Yankee Stadium, tied for their best record there against any AL team. Detroit’s Justin Verlander had struggled mightily at this ballpark during his career, going 0-4 with a 4.93 ERA in eight starts (including the postseason). That was his most starts without a win for any stadium he’s pitched at in the majors.

The Tigers and Verlander defied those numbers, Ian Kinsler had a historic day at the plate, and the Yankees five-game win streak was snapped. Verlander shut down the middle of the order with a mix of four-seamers, cutters, changeups and curves — the Yankees’ No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters were a combined 0-for-11 with one walk — and Kinsler provided the scoring punch with a three-run homer and a two-run double.

He became just the third visiting leadoff hitter in the last 50 seasons to have at least five RBIs at Yankee Stadium (old or new). The most recent was Johnny Damon in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, and the other was the Orioles’ Brady Anderson in 1992.

Verlander cooled off the scorching-hot bat of Carlos Beltran, who went 0-for-4 and grounded into a double play against the former Cy Young winner. Beltran is now 1-for-16 (.063) with five strikeouts against Verlander in his career, his worst batting average against any pitcher he’s faced at least 15 times.

Masahiro Tanaka, who came into the game with a 1.33 ERA in his previous four outings, was tagged for five runs on six hits, including two homers. The first of those longballs came after he had gotten two quick strikes on Nick Castellanos in the second inning. It was the first time in his career that Tanaka had allowed a home run on an 0-2 count. Castellanos also had never hit a homer on an 0-2 count before taking Tanaka deep.

First time for everything
Seven times the Tigers had come to the new Yankee Stadium in the regular season, and seven times they left with more losses than wins during the series. They ended that drought with a 4-1 win on Sunday, taking two of three from the Yankees in the Bronx.

Not only had the Yankees never lost a regular-season series to the Tigers at this ballpark, but they’d never even lost back-to-back games against them there … until Sunday. The Tigers were the only AL team that had never beaten the Yankees twice in a row during the regular season at the new Yankee Stadium.

For the second day in a row, a Tigers starter dominated the Yankees lineup. Rookie Michael Fulmer tossed six scoreless innings, allowing only a pair of doubles by Austin Romine and Aaron Hicks. The last opposing pitcher age 23 or younger to go at least six innings without allowing a run and no more than two hits in the Bronx was the Twins’ Scott Erickson, who threw a two-hit shutout at the old Yankee Stadium on June 24, 1991.

Mister “Box of Chocolates” — aka Michael Pineda — continued to do his best to shed that label of inconsistency with another strong performance this month. For the first time this season, he’s put together three straight starts without allowing more than three runs in each outing. Baby steps, Big Mike, baby steps.

His slider continues to be a dominant swing-and-miss weapon for him, with the Tigers whiffing on 14 of their 32 swings (44 percent) against the pitch. During this mini-three-game hot streak in June, batters have swung at 73 of his sliders and come up empty 39 times — a ridiculous whiff rate of 53 percent.

Yankeemetrics: Welcome back to .500 [June 6-9]

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Call it a comeback
For the first two-thirds of Monday’s series opener against the Angels, it looked like the game would follow a familiar script: yet another strong effort by the starting pitcher wasted because of a lack of run support …

… And then suddenly everything changed in the span of three pitches. Brian McCann and Starlin Castro hit back-to-back homers in the seventh inning, tying the game at 2-2. Carlos Beltran capped the comeback with a three-run shot in the eighth inning that gave the Yankees one of their most stirring wins of the season.

Beltran flashed rare opposite field power with that blast. It was his 67th homer as a right-handed batter over the last 10 seasons, but just the third time in that span that he’s sent the ball over the right field fence.

Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff but he grinded through seven innings and held the Angels to two runs. It was his 10th start allowing two earned runs or fewer this season, the most among AL pitchers through Monday. The last Yankee to post double-digit starts with two earned runs or fewer allowed — this early into the season (57th team game) — was Ron Guidry during his Cy Young-winning campaign of 1978.

Carlos in charge
It is a question that has been asked many times this season: Where would the Yankees be without Carlos Beltran in the middle of their lineup? They most definitely would not have two wins in the first two games of this series.

For the second night in a row, Beltran hit a game-changing homer to help the Yankees beat the Angels, and this one was most notable because it was also his 1,000th career extra-base hit. We know that Beltran in his prime possessed that rare combo of power, patience and speed. And there’s proof in the numbers, too:

Beltran is just the seventh player in major-league history to compile at least 1,000 extra-base hits, 1,000 walks and 300 stolen bases. The others on that list are Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Tris Speaker and Craig Biggio.

Two weeks ago, Michael Pineda‘s spot in the rotation was seemingly in jeopardy. But after Tuesday’s promising seven-inning, three-run performance, there is a glimmer of hope that maybe he’s finally turned the corner.

Thanks to a lower arm slot that has added depth to his slider, Pineda has a 61 percent whiffs-per-swing rate on the pitch in his two June starts (up from 42 percent in April and May), and has given up just three singles – while netting 10 strikeouts – among the 71 sliders he’s thrown this month.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

C-Parm, the newest True Yankee®
The Angels were once the Yankees’ kryptonite — the were the only American League team that had a winning record against them during the Joe Torre era — but since then have become their punching bag, especially in the Bronx.

With Tuesday’s win, the Yankees improved to 23-8 against the Angels at the new Yankee Stadium, their best record against any AL squad at the ballpark.

The Yankees also continued to beat up on the Angels pitching staff on Wednesday night, belting out nine extra-base hits and 17 hits overall en route to a 12-6 win.

The nine extra-base hits tied the most they’ve ever hit against the Angels (also in 1997), and was the Yankees most in a home game against any team in nearly five years. That last happened in the second game of a doubleheader against the Orioles on July 30, 2011, a 17-3 rout that included six doubles, a triple and two homers.

Chris Parmelee, making his first start in pinstripes, wasted no time in getting started on his campaign for a plaque in Monument Park. He went 3-for-5, hitting two homers and a double, while driving in three runs.

In the last 100 seasons, the only other player to hit at least two homers in his first start with the Yankees was Roger Maris. Acquired from the Royals in December 1959, Maris had four hits — two homers, a double and a single — and four RBIs in a 8-4 win over the Red Sox on Opening Day in 1960.

Broom, broom
Remember when the Yankees couldn’t even win three games in a row? With their 6-3 victory on Thursday night, they now have two four-game sweeps on their ledger this season. Amazing facts, I tell ya.

This was their first four-game sweep of the Angels since July 21-24, 1994, and the victory was also their ninth in a row against them in the Bronx. That’s the Yankees second-longest home win streak in this rivalry, behind only an 11-gamer spanning the 1961-62 seasons.

Something that is not shocking … Carlos Beltran was once again in the middle of another Yankees offensive outburst. His tie-breaking RBI double in the fifth inning was his fourth go-ahead hit in this series, and team-leading 15th go-ahead RBI of the season — nearly twice as many as any other Yankee has in 2016 (Starlin Castro and A-Rod are second with eight).

He’s also now driven in at least two runs in each of his last four games, matching the longest multi-RBI streak of his career, a mark he set in the 2006 season with the Mets. The last Yankee with two-or-more RBIs in four straight games was Mark Teixeira in 2010.

Carlos Beltran’s power surge comes at a great time for the Yankees

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Two nights ago the Yankees beat the Angels thanks to an eighth inning three-run home run by Carlos Beltran. It was an opposite field job into the short porch against lefty Jose Alvarez. Believe it or not, that was the team’s first three-run homer since April 7th, the third game of the season. Yeah, it had been a while. Beltran again gave the Yankees the lead lastnight, this time with a first inning two-run homer off David Huff.

Last night’s home run was the 15th of the season for Beltran, and that’s notable because he hit only 19 homers last season and 15 the year before. Even in 2013, his final year with the Cardinals, Beltran swatted 24 homers. He’s on pace to hit 42 dingers (!) this season. His .277 ISO and .549 SLG rank 11th and 13th among the 175 qualified hitters in baseball, respectively. The guy is 39, remember.

As you know, Beltran started last season horribly. He looked done. Like done done. He turned things around in May and raked the rest of the season, but he didn’t hit for power like this. Beltran hit his first homer last year on May 10th, in the team’s 32nd game. From that game through the end of the season, Carlos ran a pace of 26.6 homers per 150 games. That’s really good! It’s still far below this year’s pace of 38.8 homers per 150 games.

Check out Beltran’s rolling 20-game ISO since 2010, via FanGraphs. Aside from a spike early in 2012, Beltran hasn’t matched his current power rate at any point in the last six seasons:

Carlos Beltran ISOAs you can see in the graph, Beltran’s ISO gradually faded from early-2012 though the end of the 2014 season, and that is totally normal for a player on the wrong side of 35. Players lose bat speed as they age and their power suffers. That’s the way it goes. Beltran was no exception during that three-year period.

Since the last May though, Beltran has been hitting for power at a tremendous pace, and he’s kicked it up a notch through two months and change this season. He’s done it without a substantial change in his fly ball rate or hard hit ball rate too. Beltran’s not even pulling the ball more often to take advantage of the short porch. In fact, his pull rate is down, though as a switch-hitter, that helps him take aim at the short porch against lefties.

“That’s not the plan,” said Beltran when Chad Jennings earlier this week when asked if he’s trying to hit more home runs. “The plan is to just to try to put together good at-bats. Hopefully everyone in the lineup is capable of putting together good at-bats. The plan is not to go up there and try to hit homers. That’s a terrible plan, but (Monday) it worked out for us.”

There is one really obvious possible explanation for Beltran’s recent power surge: he’s healthy. Beltran spent most of 2014 playing through a bone spur in his elbow. He wasn’t all that good that season, especially in the second half. Beltran then had the bone spur removed in the offseason. It seems like it took him a few weeks early last year to get right physically, then once he started to feel really good in May, he took off and it carried into this season.

I also think there might be something tying Beltran’s performance to his contract status. This is going to sound cynical as hell, but money is a great motivator. We’ve all noticed Carlos running better in the outfield and on the bases this season, right? Is it unreasonable to think he’s in better shape than he has been the last few years because his deal is up? I don’t think so. This happens all the time in all sports.

The combination of good health and that extra contract year motivation could help explain Beltran’s recent power surge. Could is the key word there. We don’t know this for sure. The only thing we know for sure is that since May of last season, Beltran has really awesome at the plate, and he’s upped his power output considerably this season. He hasn’t hit for power like this since he was in his prime with the Mets years and years ago.

For the Yankees to have any chance to climb back into the postseason race, they’ll need Beltran to keep up this pace. He’s been their best hitter this season by no small margin and is their biggest power threat. And you know what? If the Yankees don’t get back into the race, this power surge will make Beltran that much more attractive to other teams at the deadline should the Yankees decide to sell. For now, Carlos’ power definitely qualifies as a good surprise this season.

Game 51: A Rare Sabathia Start in Toronto

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

Here’s a weird stat I stumbled across today: CC Sabathia has started only two games at Rogers Centre since 2011. Part of that is just luck of the draw. If he’s not scheduled to pitch in the series, he’s not scheduled to pitch. Some of it is by design though. Last year the Yankees went out of their way to shuffle their rotation so Sabathia would avoid the Blue Jays. Given his ineffectiveness and their powerhouse offense, it made sense.

Now? Now Sabathia is pitching better than he has at any point since 2012 thanks to his new cutter/sinker approach, among other things. It’s only seven starts, but a 2.83 ERA (2.99 FIP) in 41.1 innings is best case scenario stuff from the big man. Hopefully the offense gives him more support tonight than they did last time out, when they wasted his gem against these same Blue Jays. Here is Toronto’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. RF Rob Refsnyder
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. DH Carlos Beltran
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. C Austin Romine
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. LF Aaron Hicks
    LHP CC Sabathia

Pleasant weather in Toronto this afternoon, so I imagine the Rogers Centre roof will be open. This evening’s game will begin at 7pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Dustin Ackley (shoulder) will indeed have season-ending labrum surgery. Sucks. That most likely ends his time with the Yankees. He was a non-tender candidate before the injury and the torn labrum makes it a lock. Ackley will be transferred to the 60-day DL the next time the team needs a 40-man roster spot.

All-Star Voting Update: MLB released the first fan voting update for the AL All-Star Game starters this afternoon. Here are the results. Brian McCann is second among catchers — it’s a distant second, he’s nearly 800,000 votes behind Salvador Perez — and Beltran is 11th among outfielders. No other Yankees are among the top five vote getters at their positions. Spoiler alert: the Yankees will not have an All-Star Game starter for the second straight year after having at least one every year from 2000-14. Here’s the ballot if you want to vote anyway.