Beltran, Bird, and Severino have gone from non-factors in April to indispensable in September


Last night the Yankees beat the Blue Jays thanks in large part to Carlos Beltran, Greg Bird, and Luis Severino. Others certainly helped, but Beltran and Bird stood out for their clutch late-inning home runs, and Severino chucked six innings of two-run ball against a great offense. They were the heavy-lifters in the team’s most important win of the season (to date!).

Back in April, last night’s win would have felt impossible. Beltran had a miserable opening month and looked very much like an older player on his last legs. Bird and Severino? They were in Double-A. Not Triple-A, Double-A. Calling up Severino in the second half seemed possible, sure, but Bird? I don’t think anyone thought he would come up in the second half and play everyday.

Beltran, Bird, and Severino were total non-factors for the Yankees back in April. Beltran was a negative both at the plate and in the field, and the other two guys were two minor league levels away from the Bronx. The season is very long though, things change constantly over the course of 162 games, and now those three guys are all indispensable pieces as the Yankees look to clinch a postseason spot.

Let’s be clear here: these are three players the Yankees can not live without right now. That’s not hyperbole. Beltran and Bird have been the club’s two best hitters this month and Severino has been no worse than their third best starting pitcher since he was called up. You could easily argue he’s been their second best starts since being summoned. The Yankees are not hanging on to the top wildcard spot without these guys doing what they’ve done.

Beltran’s first month was awful. You don’t need me to remind you. He hit .162/.216/.265 (21 wRC+) with no homers in April. It was ugly. We all wanted him out of the lineup. Since then though, Beltran has hit .300/.361/.514 (136 wRC+) with 17 home runs in just over 400 plate appearances since May 1st (406 to be exact), including the go-ahead solo homer in the eighth inning last night. The crazy thing? It wasn’t even Beltran’s biggest homer against the Blue Jays this year:

Beltran’s home run last night didn’t stand up — Andrew Miller blew the save in the ninth, only his second blown save of the year — but the Yankees again rallied to take the lead, this time on Bird’s three-run homer in the tenth. Chris Young (walk) and Slade Heathcott (catcher’s interference) deserve credit for reaching base to start the rally, but it was Bird who not only hit the homer, but battled back from an 0-2 count to work it to 2-2.

In his short time as Mark Teixeira‘s injury replacement, Bird has hit .256/.336/.562 (142 wRC+) with ten homers in 34 games. Ten homers! He hit a dozen homers in 83 minor league games this year. Furthermore, six of Bird’s ten homers have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead. He’s had some huge ones. The two-homer game against the Twins, the go-ahead blast against the Orioles, last night … Bird’s been huge. Huge. Just don’t ask him to talk about it.

“I’m just comfortable playing baseball. I don’t really know how else to put it. But I enjoy it. I enjoy it here,” he said to reporters following last night’s win. That’s the boring answer we’re used to hearing from seasoned veterans, not a 22-year-old with barely more than month in the show. Bird is the big new thing but let’s not forget how great Teixeira was before getting hurt. He was a monster and the Yankees aren’t where they are without him. It could have been very bad when he went down. It hasn’t been thanks to Bird.


Then there’s Severino, who zoomed through the system and has become a big time contributor who is only 24 months removed from rookie ball. He came up after the trade deadline — after the Yankees declined to trade for rotation help at the deadline, more precisely — and has given the team as huge boost, pitching to a 3.10 ERA (4.38 FIP) in nine starts and 49.1 innings. That’s as good as it gets for a 21-year-old kid thrust into a postseason race. The Yankees have needed him too. The rotation is stretched thin due to injury.

Last night’s start was Severino’s third against the Blue Jays this year and easily his best. They hit him around a bit in their first meeting (three runs in six innings) then really did a number on him in their second meeting (six runs in 2.1 innings), but Severino rebounded, made the necessarily adjustments, and held them to two runs in six innings on the road last night. It would have been easy to understand if a rookie pitcher had been overwhelmed by that environment last night. Severino wasn’t.

Back in April, I’m not sure anyone figured Beltran and Bird and Severino would be playing major roles down the stretch and into September. Beltran looked washed up and both Bird and Severino were sitting in Double-A, far away from the Bronx. (Well, not literally. They were only in Trenton.) The Yankees stuck with Beltran and have been rewarded in a huge way. They didn’t trade for any significant help at the deadline and instead placed their trust in Bird and Severino. Again, they’ve been rewarded in a huge way.

Chances are the Yankees won’t win the division. There’s not much time left in the season and the Blue Jays are really good. They are in great position to claim a wildcard spot and return to the postseason, however. They wouldn’t be where they are without Beltran, Bird, and Severino. They’ve all been major contributors down the stretch after it appeared none would have any impact earlier this season.

Game 104: End of the Road Trip

(David Banks/Getty)
(David Banks/Getty)

The three-city, ten-game road trip ends today. The Yankees are 5-4 in the first nine games of the trip, which is a bit disappointing considering they won four of the first five games. The offense has certainly shown up this trip (66 runs scored in the nine games) but the pitching has not (50 runs allowed).

Ivan Nova gets the ball this afternoon after leaving his last start with arm fatigue, which the Yankees insist is just a normal dead arm phase following Tommy John surgery. The rotation is really starting to become an issue — the starters have allowed 35 runs in 45.2 innings on the trip — so a solid outing from Nova would be very appreciated. Here is the White Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Ivan Nova

It is cloudy and very windy in Chicago this afternoon. I don’t know if that means the ball will be flying out of the park or getting knocked down. We’ll find out soon enough. Either way, first pitch is scheduled for 2:10pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and TBS nationally. Enjoy the game, folks.

Injury Updates: Diego Moreno has been placed on the DL with irritation in the back of his elbow, Joe Girardi announced. Moreno said he doesn’t think it is serious but he will see Dr. James Andrews tomorrow … Beltran is good to go today. He sat yesterday in part due to soreness in his foot. He fouled a couple pitches into his foot the last few days.

Roster Updates: Chris Capuano has cleared waivers and accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A Scranton after being designated for assignment a few days ago. He’s starting for the RailRiders today. Capuano could have elected free agency, but he would have forfeited about $2M in free agency by doing so. My guess is we’ll see him again when rosters expand in September … Branden Pinder has been recalled to replace Moreno on the roster.

Game 91: Reverse Trap?


About four years ago, this afternoon’s pitching matchup would have been a gem. CC Sabathia vs. Felix Hernandez. Two of the ten best pitchers in the game. Now it’s lopsided and not in the Yankees’ favor. Sabathia has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball over the last three seasons while Felix remains one of the best. Not a good matchup!

Of course, the Yankees clobbered Hernandez last month, scoring seven runs in 4.2 innings after he started the game with three perfect innings on 21 total pitches. Hopefully today is a reverse trap game. The kind of game with a pitching matchup so lopsided the exactly opposite of what everyone expects to happen happens. That would be nice.

I’m not going to be home in time to post the lineups, so I will direct you to Chad Jennings for New York’s batting order. Carlos Beltran was activated off the DL and Rob Refsnyder was sent down, which is dumb, but the Yankees haven’t exactly shined with their decision making lately.

It’s nice and sunny in the Bronx this afternoon. Hot too. The game is scheduled to begin a little after 1pm ET and you can watch on WPIX locally. Enjoy.

2015 Midseason Review: Bad Knees and Platoon Splits in the Outfield

The Yankees had to rebuild their infield this past offseason, but the outfield remained the same. They had three outfielders under contract — and will again this winter, the same three starters will be back in 2016! — so all they needed was a fourth outfielder for the bench. Given the sketchiness of the new-look infield, the outfield had to be the strength of the club. Brett Gardner has held up his end of the bargain. Everyone else? Let’s review.


Great … When Healthy

Gardner as been the Yankees’ best all-around player so far this season, though Ellsbury is right there with him on a rate basis in the non-power departments. He’s been better, in fact. Gardner is hitting .302 with a .377 OBP while Ellsbury has hit .318 with a .399 OBP. Brett has more power, but that’s fine, they’re both pretty awesome and they’ve done a dynamite job of setting the table in 2015. The Yankees have scored the second most runs in baseball this year thanks in large part to these two guys batting one-two in the lineup.

As good as Ellsbury has been this year — he’s hitting .318/.399/.376 (122 wRC+) with two homers, 14 steals, and by far the highest walk rate of his career (10.4%) — he has played in only 42 of the team’s 88 games due to a knee injury that sidelined him for approximately seven weeks. (His rehab was a little slower than expected too. He missed some rehab games with “general fatigue,” which unfortunately is nothing new for Ellsbury.) He just returned last week in fact, in the fifth to last game of the first half.

When he has been on the field, Ellsbury’s been great. He’s been a dynamic leadoff hitter who is getting on base and letting the other guys drive him in. That’s exactly when he’s supposed to do. Ellsbury’s been one of the very best leadoff hitters in baseball in 2015, and he’s done it while playing his typically excellent center field. No problems with his production whatsoever. The knee injury just put a big damper on his first half. It happens.


Veteran Downside

Gosh, how bad did Carlos Beltran look back in April? Really, really bad. He wasn’t hitting at all, pitchers were beating him with both hard stuff and soft stuff, and it looked like the 38-year-old with bad knees coming off offseason elbow surgery was nearing the end of the line. Beltran was a truly great player who deserves Hall of Fame consideration. That doesn’t make him invincible to aging, however.

Then something weird happened. Beltran started hitting. And he kept hitting too. He followed up his miserable .162/.216/.265 (23 wRC+) showing in April with a .298/.316/.500 (123 wRC+) performance in May and a .300/.378/.488 (142 wRC+) performance in June. It all adds up to a .260/.309/.430 (102 wRC+) batting line with seven home runs overall. This graph looks good to me:

Carlos Beltran wOBABeltran’s return to usefulness hit a bump in the road late last month, when he landed on the DL with an oblique strain. He’s expected to play in minor league rehab games this week and rejoin the Yankees either immediately after the All-Star break or soon thereafter. Seems like a minor injury, thankfully.

As the offense has ticked upward, Beltran’s right field defense has remained a huge liability. He has no range — how many catchable pop-ups have we seen drop in foul terrible already this year? argh — and let’s be honest here, Beltran doesn’t always bust it to retrieve whatever balls do fall in. The guy does have bad knees and he is 38, no one is expecting him to move around like Ellsbury or Gardner, but good gravy, the lack of mobility is alarming.

The Yankees are stuck with Beltran in right field because Alex Rodriguez is their full-time DH. A-Rod at DH has worked way too well to mess with it. So it’s not Beltran’s fault he has to play the field every day. Even with his bat coming around, Carlos is a replacement level player with far more downside than upside. His first half as a whole was not good — the offensive rebound saved it from being a total disaster — and the Yankees are just going to have to live with whatever Beltran gives them. Hope he mashes and doesn’t hurt the team in the field before the defensive replacement comes in.

The Fourth Outfielder


The Yankees struck fourth outfielder gold this offseason. They brought in Chris Young as a low cost flier last September — the Mets released him and were on the hook for his salary, so the Yankees only had to pay Young the pro-rated portion of the league minimum — and he produced (146 wRC+), so they brought him back on a one-year deal worth $2.5M to complement their lefty heavy outfield this offseason.

The results have been stellar. Young is hitting .248/.301/.452 (106 wRC+) with 10 (!) home runs overall, and he’s done his best work against lefties, hitting .354/.411/.646 (192 wRC+) against southpaws. That is exactly what Young was brought to do. Mash lefties and play strong defense, which he has done in all three outfield spots — yeah he misplayed that ball into a triple this past weekend, but everyone screws up now and then — and often in place of Beltran late inning games.

Young is not hitting right-handed pitchers — .180/.228/.328 (50 wRC+) — and yet Joe Girardi keeps playing him against righties, especially while Beltran has been on the DL. That’s a Girardi problem, not a Young problem. I guess we could blame Young for hitting a little against righties in April and giving Girardi confidence he can hold his own against northpaws. Either way, as a defensive replacement/lefty masher, Young has been phenomenal. Legitimate A+ work. The Yankees won the bench player lottery.

* * *

Aside from Beltran, who is an older player nearing the end of his career, the Yankees have gotten excellent work out of their outfielders this season. Gardner has been incredible, Ellsbury has been very good when healthy, and Young has been as good as any fourth outfielder in the league. Gardner and Ellsbury are critical to the team’s success and Young’s role against lefties shouldn’t be overlooked — he adds much needed balance to the roster. The outfield overall as been very good, even with Beltran dragging things down a bit.

Yankees place Beltran on 15-day DL, recall Flores and Petit

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees have placed Carlos Beltran on the 15-day DL with an oblique strain, the team announced. Ramon Flores and Gregorio Petit were both called up from Triple-A Scranton in corresponding moves. Taylor Dugas was optioned down to Triple-A to clear the other roster spot.

Beltran, 38, left Tuesday’s game in Anaheim after grabbing his side during an at-bat. He actually stayed in to finish the at-bat before being removed between innings. Beltran told reporters his oblique had been bothering him for a few days but the discomfort was manageable. Beltran went for tests yesterday that showed the strain.

Although he is hitting an average-ish .260/.309/.430 (102 wRC+) overall this season, Beltran has been much more productive since May 1st, hitting .299/.346/.494 (132 wRC+) in his last 188 plate appearances. The Yankees will miss his bat in the middle of the order for sure. His defense? Not so much. The lineup is a little shorter now though.

Flores wasn’t called up when Beltran initially got hurt because he couldn’t be recalled — he was still in his ten-day window after being sent down last week and the team wasn’t sure if Beltran needed to be placed on the DL yet. His ten days are up now. Beltran’s injury allowed Petit to come back before his ten days were up. He was sent down last weekend.

The Yankees are currently have Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury (knee), Slade Heathcott (quad), and Mason Williams (shoulder) on the DL, so they’re running out of outfielders. Their depth has been put to the test. Ellsbury might be back soon and Williams is eligible to come off the DL tomorrow, but there have been no updates on him. Heathcott will miss several more weeks.

Chris Young and Garrett Jones have both played well of late, though Girardi has given the majority of the playing time to Young, even against righties. My guess is Flores plays left, Young plays right, and Brett Gardner mans center for the time being. Once Ellsbury comes back, they can figure out a new alignment then.

Yanks call up Taylor Dugas, outright Esmil Rogers; Carlos Beltran day-to-day for time being


The Yankees have called up outfielder Taylor Dugas from Double-A Trenton, the team announced. Esmil Rogers has been outrighted back to Triple-A Scranton, which clears both a 25-man and 40-man roster spot for Dugas. The Yankees are back to a normal seven-man bullpen and a four-man bench.

Dugas was called up simply because the Yankees couldn’t call up Ramon Flores — he was sent down eight days ago and players have to wait ten days to be called back up unless someone is placed on the DL, and Carlos Beltran has not been placed on the DL after leaving last night’s game with a ribcage issue. He is day-to-day for now and will undergo tests when the team gets back to New York.

So far this season Beltran is hitting .260/.309/.430 (102 wRC+) with seven homers, which isn’t all that good for a DH masquerading as an outfielder. To be fair, Beltran has been much better of late, hitting .299/.346/.494 (132 wRC+) since May 1st. The Yankees will miss him in the lineup. No doubt. Good thing he’s only day-to-day and it isn’t something more serious.

Dugas, 25, was New York’s eighth round pick in 2012, and he’s hitting only .198/.316/.235 (67 wRC+) in 54 games with Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this year. He hit .299/.399/.390 (126 wRC+) at the same two levels last year. Dugas is a left-handed hitting bat control guy with a good eye at the plate (career 13.6 BB% and 11.7 K%) and strong defense in all three outfield spots.

The Yankees are currently without Jacoby Ellsbury (knee), Slade Heathcott (quad), and Mason Williams (shoulder), though Ellsbury is currently on a minor league rehab assignment and Williams is eligible to be activated off the DL on Saturday. Gregorio Petit is still in his ten-day window like Flores and the only other healthy position player on the 40-man roster is Gary Sanchez.

Dugas got the call because he’s only needed for a few days and won’t clog up the 40-man roster. The Yankees don’t have to worry too much about sending him through waivers when they need another 40-man spot down the road. Harsh, but hey, Dugas gets access to quality health care for life now. Spending a day in the bigs comes with some great perks.

Rogers was called back up from Triple-A Scranton over the weekend because the bullpen needed a fresh arm. He didn’t get into a game and as far as I know he didn’t even warm up in the bullpen.

Update: Carlos Beltran exits game with ribcage injury

12:52am: Beltran left the game with a ribcage injury, Joe Girardi told reporters after the game. He’ll be re-evaluated tomorrow and there’s a chance he’ll have to be placed on the DL.

11:35pm: Carlos Beltran exited tonight’s game with some kind of injury. He hurt himself during an at-bat in the fifth inning — Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue came out to check on him — but stayed in to finish the at-bat before being removed between innings. It appeared Beltran pointed to his oblique, but I could be wrong.

Beltran, 38, came into Tuesday’s game hitting .263/.312/.433 (103 wRC+) overall, though he’s been much better of late, with a .302/.349/.500 (135 wRC+) batting line since May 1st. The Yankees are already without Jacoby Ellsbury (knee), Slade Heathcott (quad), and Mason Williams (shoulder), so they really can’t afford to lose another outfielder. Ramon Flores is the obvious call-up candidate if Beltran misses time.

The Yankees haven’t announced anything about Beltran’s injury yet, so stayed tuned for updates.