Trade Deadline Notes: Lopez, Nats, Giants, Rangers, Gallo

Lopez. (Mitchell Layton/Getty)
Lopez. (Mitchell Layton/Getty)

The Yankees have won six of their last nine games, and during that time they’ve gained exactly zero games in wildcard race. Not one. They’re still five games back, though now there’s only three teams ahead of them instead of six. Yay? Here’s the latest batch of trade deadline rumors.

Yankees scouted Lopez, others Tuesday

Vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring was at Nationals Park last night to scout rookie right-hander Reynaldo Lopez and other players, reports George King. Lopez got knocked around in his MLB debut, allowing six runs on ten hits and a walk in 4.2 innings, but he did strike out nine. Baseball America ranked him 48th in their midseason top 100 update, and Lopez has long been speculated as a possible center piece for an Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller trade.

The only other notable young players to play in last night’s Nationals-Dodgers game were Joc Pederson and Trea Turner. I’d be surprised if the Dodgers traded Pederson. Turner though? He could definitely be a trade chip with Washington so committed to Danny Espinosa at short (and prospect Wilmer Difo on the way). Turner went 1-for-4 with a two-run triple and a strikeout last night. Here’s video of the triple. For what it’s worth, Lopez strikes me as way more available than Turner.

Giants lingering in Chapman, Miller race

The Giants continue to linger in the Chapman/Miller market according to Jerry Crasnick, though they might be outbid by other clubs with more young talent to offer. San Francisco is focusing on other relievers for the time being, including Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith of the Brewers, and Jeanmar Gomez and David Hernandez of the Phillies.

As I said a few weeks ago, it’s hard to find a match between the Yankees and Giants because the Giants don’t have a great farm system. Most of their top prospects are either having down years or are far away from MLB. And even if San Francisco was willing to trade off their big league roster, who could they offer? Joe Panik or Matt Duffy? That ain’t happening. The Giants want to add to their MLB team, not subtract from it.

Yankees “intrigued” by Gallo, Rangers scouting Yanks

(Kyle Rivas/Getty)
(Kyle Rivas/Getty)

The Rangers have been scouting the Yankees for several weeks now, according to Evan Grant and George King. They’ve specifically been looking at Miller, Chapman, Dellin Betances, Ivan Nova, Nathan Eovaldi, and even CC Sabathia. Texas had trusted scout Russ Ardolina at Yankee Stadium on Monday to see Nova. The big three relievers pitched that game too. The Rangers need all sorts of pitching help and the Yankees have a bunch to offer.

King says the Yankees are “intrigued” by dinger mashing prospect Joey Gallo, and Grant says that while Gallo isn’t untouchable, it’s going to take a lot to get him. Texas turned down Gallo for Drew Pomeranz, for example. There are concerns about Gallo’s ability to make consistent contact against MLB caliber arms, but he has true 80 power on the 20-80 scouting scale, the kind that will produce 40 bombs in any park even if he hits .230. He’s also a good defender at third base, so while he’s a flawed player, Gallo has a chance to a middle of the order force long-term.

2016 Midseason Review: The Rotation

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, infielders, outfielders, and bench. Now it’s time to cover the rotation.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Coming into this 2016 season, the common refrain was “if the rotation pitches up to its potential, the Yankees are going to have a really great staff.” And you know what? That wasn’t crazy. Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda have shown the ability to dominate, ditto Nathan Eovaldi at times. Luis Severino‘s debut last season was very good, and although the last few years didn’t go well, CC Sabathia had a new brace going for him. Ivan Nova was the No. 6 guy.

Naturally, the rotation has not pitched up to its potential. It’s tough to get five guys to do that at the same time. Heck, it’s hard to get two guys to do that at the same time. With the exception of Severino, the four starters behind Tanaka all put together a three or four or five start stretch in which they dominated, but it hasn’t lasted. The rotation comes into the break with a 4.81 ERA and 4.33 FIP, which rank 22nd and 13th in MLB, respectively. Let’s review the starting staff.

Masahiro Tanaka: An Ace On Extra Rest

Is there a more divisive pitcher on the Yankees than Tanaka? I don’t think so. Some see him as an ace, others see him as an overpaid mid-rotation guy. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Let’s start with some facts. Here’s where Tanaka ranks among the 96 pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title this year:

Innings: 117 (14th)
ERA: 3.23 (24th)
ERA+: 133 (25th)
FIP: 3.31 (13th)
WHIP: 1.11 (20th)
BB%: 4.6% (7th)
K%: 19.5% (57th)
GB%: 50.0% (25th)
HR/9: 0.77 (20th)
fWAR: 3.0 (7th)
bWAR: 2.7 (18th)

Tanaka is top 25 in everything except strikeout rate and is top 20 in most categories as well. When it comes to keeping runs off the board, which is the whole point of pitching, Tanaka is far better than average. He’s done it this year by changing up his pitch selection and emphasizing his sinking two-seam fastball rather than his four-seamer, and the result is way more grounders and fewer homers allowed. That’s good! Homers were a problem last year.

The season the problem seems to be extra rest vs. normal rest. It’s always something, right? As I pointed out last week, Tanaka performed better on normal rest from 2014-15. This year the opposite is true. Again, let’s look at the facts.

IP ERA FIP WHIP K% BB% HR/9
Normal Rest 49 5.33 4.36 1.39 17.8% 4.7% 1.83
Extra Rest 68 1.72 2.47 0.91 20.9% 4.6% 0.26

That’s a huge difference! Huge. Unignorably huge. I know the 2014-15 stats say one thing, but the 2016 stats say another, and they’re more relevant. Tanaka is a different pitcher this year than the last two years simply by virtue of being older and having more wear and tear on his arm.

There’s also this: Tanaka had elbow surgery this offseason. Remember that? I kinda forgot about it. He had a bone spur taken out of his elbow and was brought along slowly in Spring Training. That could absolutely have an effect on Tanaka’s ability to pitch on normal rest. The guy’s anatomy and offseason routine changed.

John Flaherty has said Tanaka’s stuff looks much crisper with an extra day of rest during various YES broadcasts, and while true, that’s one of those things that applies to every pitcher. Is the difference in Tanaka’s stuff so great that it leads to that huge difference in performance? Apparently so. The facts are the facts. Tanaka pitched like an ace with extra rest and a dud on normal rest in the first half.

Overall, Tanaka was really good in the first half. He’s never not been really good with the Yankees. Tanaka made 18 starts in the first half and allowed two or fewer runs 12 times. He has nine starts of at least six innings and no more than two runs allowed. Only Aaron Sanchez (12) and Chris Tillman (ten) have more among AL starters. Tanaka’s a top tier starter in the league.

Second Half Outlook: The normal rest/extra rest numbers are too drastic to ignore. The guy has been two totally different pitchers depends on his rest. Will that be the case going forward? Not necessarily, but the Yankees should proceed as if it will be. They should try to get Tanaka — and their other starters, for that matter — an extra day whenever possible. Chad Green could help make this possible. Either way, Tanaka is the Yankees’ best pitcher and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue to be the case going forward.

Michael Pineda: Proof Swings & Misses Aren’t Everything

The last Yankee pitcher as frustrating as Pineda was A.J. Burnett, right? Both guys oh so clearly had the stuff to not only get results, but dominate. Instead, they were generally mediocre because of bad command and their propensity for mistake pitches. Pineda has this nasty slider in his arsenal …

Michael Pineda slider… and yet opponents are hitting .204/.256/.290 against him in two-strike counts this year. The league average is .177/.247/.278. Pineda has been worse than average across the board. Furthermore, opponents are hitting .200/.200/.300 against Pineda in 0-2 counts, the most pitcher friendly count there is. That works out to a 158 OPS+ (!) because the league average is .152/.160/.226. Groan.

Pineda was so bad to start the 2016 season that there was talk of sending him to the minors or moving him to the bullpen. He had a 6.92 ERA through his first ten starts and 53.1 innings. Opponents hit .322/.371/.581 against him during that time. That’s basically Manny Machado (.318/.375/.569). Pineda turned everyone into Manny Machado for 50-something innings. GROAN.

But, in his last seven starts and 42 innings, Pineda has a 3.43 ERA and a .205/.256/.346 opponent’s batting line. That’s much better! That’s closer to Freddy Galvis (.234/.263/.368) than Manny Machado. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild gave reporters a vague “we tweaked some things mechanically” answer when asked about Pineda’s improvement a few weeks ago, so while we don’t know what exactly changed, we know something did change.

Overall, Pineda has a 5.38 ERA (3.79 FIP) in 17 starts and 95.1 innings. His strikeout (27.2%) and walk (6.3%) rates are phenomenal! His 13.9% swing-and-miss rate is fifth highest in baseball behind Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard, Max Scherzer, and Jose Fernandez. Basically the four best pitchers in baseball. And yet, Pineda gives up a ton of homers (1.42 HR/9) and more than a hit per inning. Blargh. That describes Pineda. Blargh. Just … blargh.

Second Half Outlook: If the Yankees do come to their senses and decide to sell, Pineda could be one of the pieces moved at the deadline. He’s under team control one more season before hitting free agency, so he could fetch a decent return even with his maddening inconsistency. If the Yankees keep Pineda, I have no idea what to expect performance-wise. He goes from dominating to getting smacked around in a moment’s notice, often right in the middle of a start.

Nathan Eovaldi: So Good, Then So, So Bad

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

True story: On the morning of May 30th, Eovaldi had a 3.71 ERA (3.59 FIP) through ten starts and 60.2 innings. His strikeout (22.9%), walk (6.0%), and grounder (54.3%) rates were all excellent. The high-octane fastball and new splitter had turned Eovaldi into a reliably above-average starter. It was awesome. He and Tanaka were one heck of a one-two punch for the first two months.

Now, on July 13th, Eovaldi has a 5.18 ERA (5.09 FIP) in 97.1 innings. His last six starts were so bad — 31 runs in 30.1 innings! — the Yankees had to send Eovaldi to the bullpen. It went south so quick. Those six starts were, by far, the worst stretch of Eovaldi’s career. This wasn’t a case of a career mediocre pitcher regressing to the mean. This was beyond that. Something went wrong and no one seems to know what.

The good news is Eovaldi’s healthy. He was so bad in those six starts that I thought he was hurt. The bad news is no one seems to know what’s wrong. At least an injury would explain the sudden drop in performance. Eovaldi’s location has deteriorated, that’s obvious, but why? That’s up to Rothschild to figure out. In the span of six starts, Eovaldi went from extension candidate to mop-up reliever. Baseball is so dumb sometimes.

Second Half Outlook: Joe Girardi and the Yankees insist they see Eovaldi as a starter long-term, so I guess that means he’s going to return to the rotation at some point. Since Chad Green got lit up in his last start and demoted to the minors the next day, Eovaldi could be back in the rotation as soon as, well, immediately. When the second half starts. If not, he figures to get a shot as a middle innings reliever, or traded at the deadline.

Luis Severino: From Future Ace To Reclamation Project

Ugh. This 2016 season has been pretty crummy overall, but Severino going from young stud starter to punch line is the crummiest thing about it. Severino posted a 7.46 ERA (5.55 FIP) in seven starts and 35 innings before coming down with a triceps injury. Only twice did he allowed fewer than four runs or not allow a homer. It was not pretty.

After the injury, the Yankees optioned Severino down to Triple-A, which was something no one expected to happen before the season. His performance has been much better in Triple-A (3.18 ERA and 2.78 FIP), and thank goodness, because the worst thing ever would be Severino getting lit up in the minors too. The Yankees don’t seem to be in much of a rush to bring him back, which is fine with me.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

What went wrong with Severino? More than anything, his command of his offspeed pitches was just awful. He couldn’t locate his slider or changeup consistently, so most of the time he was out there with a fastball and nothing else. That ain’t gonna work. Those command problems didn’t exist last year, or at least when they did, they didn’t last very long. I’m not going to say they came out of nowhere, but it’s not like there were obvious warning signs last year.

Also, I think fans set expectations a wee bit too high for Severino coming into the season. There was talk about him being the best pitcher on the staff and possibly starting Opening Day and things like that, all of which was way way way too premature. The kid had eleven starts in the show. Anything less than dominance was going to be a disappointment. Expectations have since been re-calibrated.

Make no mistake, for the Yankees to contend this season, they were going to need Severino to pitch at a high level. Instead, he was one of the worst pitchers in baseball before getting hurt, prompting the team to send him to Triple-A for more seasoning. Severino is basically catching up on all the development time the Yankees skipped the last few years by promoting him so aggressively. His season very quickly went from “help the team win” to salvage mode.

Second Half Outlook: There’s basically nothing Severino can do now to help the Yankees contend. It’s a little too late for that. The most important thing is getting his command issues sorted out so he’s ready to help them win next year, and if that means spending the rest of the year in Triple-A, so be it. Severino is too important to the franchise long-term to call him back up before he’s ready.

CC Sabathia: Return of the Ace, Temporarily

Hands down, the best story of this Yankees’ season to date is CC Sabathia’s early dominance. And yes, he was dominant. He pitched to a 2.20 ERA (3.33 FIP) through eleven starts and 65.1 innings — there was a two-week DL stint for a groin strain thrown in there — and he did it by shelving his four-seam fastball. Sabathia replaced it with a cutter …

CC Sabathia pitch selection

… that better allowed him to bust righties inside. Sabathia had toyed with a cutter before, but it never did stick. This year it did, and it was a tangible explanation for his improvement. So was the new knee brace he started wearing late last year, as well as his sobriety. How could being sober not help Sabathia on the field? Alcoholism is brutal.

Sabathia’s last four starts have not gone well (22 runs in 23 innings), though some regression was inevitable, especially when it came to home runs. He allowed two homers total in his first 65.1 innings, then allowed four in the 23 innings since. Even with these last four starts, Sabathia was the Yankees’ second best starter in the first half, and that’s definitely not something I expected coming into the season. What a pleasant surprise.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Second Half Outlook: Sabathia came into the break with a 3.77 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 15 starts and 88.1 innings, and I’m hopeful he can sustain that level of performance in the second half. That said, the last three years have not been pretty, so it would not be a surprise is Sabathia’s ERA kept rising. Either way, boy those first eleven starts sure were fun, weren’t they?

Ivan Nova: See? I Told You He’d Be Back In The Rotation

It’s easy to forget given how Sabathia pitched in the first half, but there was a rotation competition in Spring Training. Sabathia beat out Nova, who started the season in the bullpen before rejoining the starting staff after Severino got hurt. It was only a matter of time until Nova started again. No team gets through the season using only five starters.

Nova made six relief appearances before getting the opportunity to start again, and his first three starts were very good. He allowed three runs total in 16.1 innings while on a pitch count each time out. Things went south after those first three starts. Nova has a 6.34 ERA (5.17 FIP) in nine starts and 49.2 innings since. Check out his 2015 numbers and 2016 numbers:

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/9
2015 94 5.07 4.87 15.3% 8.0% 49.0% 1.24
2016 80 5.18 4.88 17.6% 4.9% 55.7% 1.69

Pretty much the same guy. The idea Nova’s performance would improve has he got further away from Tommy John surgery was a sound one. We see guys do it all the time. It hasn’t happened though. Nova’s been pretty terrible the last nine times out, yet there doesn’t seem to be chatter about him being moved back to the bullpen. Those talks existed with Pineda and Eovaldi (and even Severino), but not yet Nova for some reason.

Second Half Outlook: Nova is going to be a free agent after the season, so there’s no long-term stake here. Both Eovaldi and Severino — and Chad Green, for that matter — have a chance to help the Yankees beyond this season, so whenever they’re deemed ready to rejoin the rotation, Nova should be removed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees moved him at the deadline either.

Olney: Yankees fielding offers for Miller, Chapman, others

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

According to Buster Olney (subs. req’d), the Yankees are currently fielding offers for Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and other players. Executives with other clubs tell Olney the Yanks are prepared to discuss Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, and Nathan Eovaldi as well. I’m sure they’re willing to talk about others too.

“The clock is ticking,” said Brian Cashman on Olney’s podcast (transcription via MLBTR), “and the more that we stay in this mode that we’re currently in, I think it’s going to force us into some tough decisions that we didn’t want to be in. There’s some time on the clock, but it’s getting late, as people would say.”

One rival executive told Olney his team made an “aggressive” offer for one of New York’s end-game relievers and that the Yankees are seriously considering it. Who is that team and what is their offer? Good luck getting that information. My guess is the Yankees have received a ton of offers for their bullpen arms — and other players too — some more serious than others.

The good news for the Yankees is a number of contending clubs are dealing with major bullpen issues right now. We saw what the Rangers are working with last week. The Giants bullpen blew another lead last night, and the Marlins blew a 6-0 lead Monday even with Fernando Rodney in tow. The Nationals and Dodgers could use relief help. So could the Red Sox, but I can’t see a trade happening there.

Either way, the Yankees should be in sell mode and it would be wise to make everyone available, not just the impending free agents. I’m glad they’re listening on guys like McCann and Eovaldi, not that I expect them to actually be moved. There’s no point in halfway rebuilding. The Yankees have been toeing the line between rebuilding and contending too long. Either go all-in and sell or don’t bother, you know?

The Yankees won last night — it was one of their best all-around performances of the season, in fact — but are still only 41-42 with a -27 run differential on the season. They’re seven games back in the AL East and four games back of the second wildcard spot with six teams ahead of them. The Yankees have literally the worst record among AL playoff hopefuls. They’re four games back of a wildcard spot, then next up is the A’s at 9.5 games back.

Yankeemetrics: Stay classy, San Diego [July 1-3]

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Not enough in the ninth
The Yankees late-game magic disappeared on Friday night as their wild ninth-inning rally fell just short in a 7-6 loss to the Padres. Down 7-2 entering the final frame, they scored four runs and got the tying run on third base before Brett Gardner grounded out to end the game.

It was just the second time in his career that Gardner has made the final out of the game with his team trailing by a run and a man on third base; he also did it in a 2-1 loss to the Royals on June 8, 2014.

Nathan Eovaldi‘s June swoon continued into the month of July with the inconsistent right-hander getting tagged for six runs on seven hits, including two homers. Over his last six starts he’s allowed a whopping 31 runs, 45 hits and 12 home runs allowed in 30 1/3 innings (and a bloated 9.20 ERA).

In this stretch he’s allowed at least four earned runs and a homer in each of those six starts, the longest such streak in franchise history. Eovaldi has now surrendered 19 longballs in 91 innings this season, a rate of 1.88 homers per nine innings would be the highest by any Yankee that qualified for the ERA title.

One of Eovaldi’s biggest bugaboos during his free fall over the past month has been a flat and ineffective splitter, a pitch that batters are hitting .311 and slugging .556 against since June 1; opponents were just 6-for-40 (.150) with no extra-base hits in at-bats ending in his splitter in May.

A significant reduction in both the horizontal and vertical movement of the pitch — he’s getting an inch less of arm-side run and it’s also dropping an inch less in June/July compared to May — has made his signature splitter way too hittable over his last several outings.

Miller’s mistake
Just a couple days removed from back-to-back thrilling last at-bat wins at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees were on the wrong side of a walk-off celebration on Saturday night in San Diego. Melvin Upton Jr. hit a solo homer on the first pitch he saw from Andrew Miller in the bottom of the ninth inning to hand the Yankees their second straight loss on the west coast.

It was the fourth time they’ve lost an Interleague game on a game-ending longball: the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman has beaten them twice (May 19, 2015 and June 18, 2006) and Todd Zeile also hit a walk-off home run against the Yankees in Denver on June 20, 2002.

The loss clinched a losing first-half record for the Yankees for only the second time in the last 20 seasons. The 2007 team was 40-41 at the halfway mark and then rebounded to win two-thirds of their games the rest of the way and clinch a Wild Card berth. That’s the only time in franchise history they managed to make the playoffs after having a sub-.500 record through 81 games.

Thanks to a dormant offense and a rare hiccup by Miller, the Yankees wasted a solid performance from the struggling Ivan Nova. The righty had posted a 6.92 ERA in his previous seven starts entering Saturday night, but rebounded to allow just one run on four hits in 5 1/3 innings in San Diego.

Nova’s curve was a key weapon for him in finishing off the Padres hitters, who whiffed on six of their eight swings against the curve and went 0-for-6 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending in the pitch.

(AP)
(AP)

Milestone Tex Message
The Yankees averted what would have been a historically awful sweep, winning the third game of the three-game series in San Diego. Since Interleague play began in 1997, the Yankees have only been swept in series of three or more games twice: June 19-21, 2007 by the Rockies and Sept 1-3, 1997 by the Phillies.

Even with the win the Yankees have some ground to make up in order to avoid their worst ever Interleague mark. They are now 3-7 (.300) halfway through the schedule; their lowest Interleague win percentage in a season is .333, when they went 5-10 in 1997.

Didi Gregorius‘ scorching hot bat gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning en route to the 6-3 victory. Each of the past four homers that he’s hit since June 16 have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead. In that span, no other Yankee has hit more than two go-ahead/game-tying home runs.

Mark Teixeira gave the Yankees an insurance run in the eight inning with a milestone Tex message – the 400th longball of his career – and then added No. 401 in the next frame.

He is the fifth switch-hitter in the 400-homer club (Chipper Jones, Eddie Murray, Mickey Mantle, Carlos Beltran), and the 55th player in MLB history to hit that many homers. He’s also the ninth player to reach the milestone in Yankee pinstripes. The rest of the group are Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Gary Sheffield, A-Rod, Alfonso Soriano, and, of course, Beltran.

Overall, of the 55 players to hit 400 homers, Teixeira is the 27th to do in his 14th season or earlier; but the only other switch-hitter to join the club this early into his career was Mickey Mantle. Among first baseman, he is one of just nine to compile 400 homers in their first 14 seasons: Carlos Delgado, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Jeff Bagwell, Albert Pujols and Mark McGwire are the others.

Benching A-Rod against righties is a good start, but there are other lineup changes worth making

But that's not any of Al's business. (Presswire)
But that’s none of Al’s business. (Presswire)

Later today, Alex Rodriguez will return to the lineup after spending the last two days on the bench. He wasn’t hurt. The Yankees are looking for ways to improve the offense and sitting Alex against right-handers is the solution they came up with. With lefty Cole Hamels on the mound tonight, A-Rod will be back in there.

“It’s a hard decision. Alex has meant a lot to this club over the years, but right now we’re gonna do something a little bit different and see how it works,” said Joe Girardi to Howie Kussoy yesterday. “It’s been tough for him against right-handers. That’s why we’re looking at this … You perform, that’s the bottom line. We’re in the business of performing. Things change. Nothing is set in stone.”

Rodriguez certainly has struggled against righties this year. The demotion is not undeserved. He’s hit .200/.236/.348 (50 wRC+) with a 31.7% strikeout rate against them so far, and his at-bats have looked pretty bad. A-Rod can’t seem to lay off sliders away and is getting chewed up by good fastballs. Removing him from the lineup against righties is necessary and smart.

That’s not the only lineup change the Yankees can and should make, however. Everyone involved keeps saying they’re trying to contend — “We can’t keep treading water. I want to be a contender, not a pretender,” said Brian Cashman to Josh Thomson yesterday — yet they can’t maintain the status quo and expect different results. It’s almost July. Here are some other changes the Yankees should make.

Give Teixeira’s Knee A Break

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Even with Mark Teixeira going deep the last two days, my guess is Rob Refsnyder will be at first base against Hamels tonight. Not only is there the left-right thing, but the Yankees had a very long night last night, and Teixeira also just played three straight games after coming off the DL with a knee problem. Girardi said they plan to give Teixeira a little more rest just to make sure the knee doesn’t flare up again. Makes sense, right? Right.

The Yankees have to do something to get Refsnyder at-bats and Teixeira’s knee is going to need regular rest, so this works well. Maybe something like three games on and one day off for Teixeira? Or two games on, one game at DH, and one day off? That will be difficult if these homers the last two days are a sign Teixeira is snapping out of his season long funk, but the Yankees can deal with that when the time comes. The point is to get Refsnyder some more at-bats. The kid has to play.

Drop Castro In The Lineup

There are 168 players qualified for the batting title as of this morning. Starlin Castro ranks 156th with a .285 OBP. That is terrible. I know he’s hit some big dingers and has generally been better than Stephen Drew, but man, his at-bats are consistently the worst on the team. He hacks at everything. Execute a slider off the plate in a two-strike count and Starlin will go fishing, no doubt about it.

Castro’s hot start and consistent dinger production — not to mention his age and contract — has bought him a long leash in a fairly premium lineup spot. He’s been hitting fifth or sixth for a while now. That has continued even though others, specifically Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley, have out-hit Castro for weeks now. Here are some numbers since May 1st, a totally arbitrary date I picked because it’s the start of a month:

PA AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ 2B HR BB% K%
Castro 209 .231/.260/.372 64 7 7 3.3% 19.1%
Gregorius 193 .311/.344/.443 110 10 4 4.1% 8.3%
Headley 183 .279/.344/.412 104 8 4 8.2% 21.9%

So yeah, Gregorius and Headley have been way more productive players for close to two months now. Benching Castro won’t (and shouldn’t) happen — he’s still only 26 and at least has a chance to be a building block player going forward — but dropping him in the lineup shouldn’t be off the table. Moving him behind Gregorius and Headley would be totally justifiable given their recent production.

Give Gardner & Ellsbury More Rest

Remember the plan to rest the regulars more often? The Yankees talked about it all offseason and in Spring Training. It hasn’t happened though. The team got off to a slow start, so Girardi kept running his regulars out there in an effort to get things turned around. As a result, Brett Gardner has started 64 of 75 games while Jacoby Ellsbury has started 61. That’s more than I think the Yankees originally planned.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Gardner and Ellsbury have slowed down of late. Gardner is hitting .273/.340/.295 (75 wRC+) over the last two weeks and Ellsbury is at .222/.255/.244 (32 wRC+). I don’t know if giving them one extra day on the bench a week while help things, but that was the plan coming into the season, right? That plan shouldn’t be abandoned, especially with the offense being so hit and (mostly) miss. It’s time to try something different.

I know most folks are done with Aaron Hicks but I’m nowhere near ready to give up on him. Clamoring for the Yankees to sell and wanting to move on from Hicks are conflicting ideas. I say give Gardner and Ellsbury that extra day of rest per week and stick Hicks in the lineup in their place. The two veterans get more rest and hopefully stay productive while Hicks gets some at-bats.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Bonus Non-Lineup Suggestion: Get Nova Out Of The Rotation

Ivan Nova stepped into the rotation a few weeks back and strung together three very good starts. The rotation was a total mess at the time and Nova did a really nice job calming things down. Props. Lately though, Ivan has been a mess, and following last night’s dud he owns a 5.32 ERA (5.07 FIP) on the season. That can’t continue. Chad Green has a 1.54 ERA (2.25 FIP) in 81.2 Triple-A innings and lines up to take Nova’s spot perfectly. The Yankees have plenty of dead weight in the bullpen they can cast aside, so put Nova back into a long relief role and give Green a chance to show what he can do.

* * *

Are the Yankees doing all they can right now to give themselves the best chance to win? I don’t think so, not if Refsnyder is sitting on the bench for three days at a time and Nova is taking a regular rotation turn. Benching A-Rod is a good move that figures to improve the offense. There’s more than can be done though, and the sooner the Yankees start making other changes, the better off they’ll be. Sitting A-Rod should be step one, not the only step.

Yankeemetrics: Rocky Mtn. High and Low [June 21-22]

(USA TODAY Sports)
(USA TODAY Sports)

From Super-Nova to Black Hole
The Yankees returned to the Bronx for their final homestand before the All-Star break but gave their fans nothing to cheer about on Tuesday night against the Rockies. This was another sloppy performance with multiple baserunning blunders, two errors committed and poor clutch hitting (0-for-10 with runners in scoring position), resulting in an 8-4 loss.

Yankee pitchers flashed dominance with 13 strikeouts, but also were pounded by Colorado’s lineup, allowing 15 hits. It’s just the fourth time in the last 100 years that the Yankees have reached both of those thresholds in a nine-inning game; the most recent was a 12-8 loss to the Red Sox on Sept. 6, 2013.

The game couldn’t have started worse as Ivan Nova allowed a leadoff homer on the third pitch he threw to Charlie Blackmon. He’s now given up at least one homer in 12 straight starts dating back to last season, matching Phil Hughes (2012) for the second-longest streak in franchise history. The only longer one is a 14-start streak by Dennis Rasmussen in 1986.

Nova’s first couple weeks in the starting rotation looked promising, with a 1.65 ERA in his initial three turns. But he’s really struggled over the past month, posting a 6.88 ERA in his last six starts. The biggest culprit during this poor stretch has been an erratic sinker that’s not doing much sinking lately. Batters are slugging .606 against the pitch over his last six starts, compared to .324 in his first three starts.

Blackmon wasn’t the only Rockie who clobbered Nova; Carlos Gonzalez had a couple hits, including a bullet line-drive double to right field in the fifth inning that left his bat at 118 mph, per Statcast. That’s the fourth-highest exit velocity for any batted ball this season, and the highest mark given up by a Yankee pitcher in the last two seasons (since Statcast began recording exit velocity data).

(AP)
(AP)

A star is born
Welcome to the True Yankee® club, Mr. Castro. Starlin Castro saved the Yankees from another horrific loss on Wednesday afternoon, belting a no-doubt homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Yankees one of their wildest and most dramatic wins of the season.

It was a game that neither team seemingly wanted to win as both teams managed to blow four-run leads, with the Yankees delivering the final blow thanks to the clutch bat of Castro.

It was the 26-year-old infielder’s first career walk-off homer, as he became the fourth Yankee with a walk-off homer in Interleague play. The others are Russell Martin (2012 vs. Mets), Alex Rodriguez (2006 vs. Braves) and Jason Giambi (2005 vs. Pirates).

In the last 50 years, only one other Yankee second baseman has hit a walk-off shot: Robinson Cano did it on August 28, 2009 against the White Sox. Before that, you have to go all the way back to July 11, 1953 when Billy Martin beat the Senators with a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the 10th.

(AP)
(AP)

Chase Headley gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead when he crushed a 97 mph fastball dead-center into Monument Park in the second inning for his first grand slam in pinstripes (fourth in his career), and the first one by a Yankee this year.

The last time the Yankees went this deep into the season (by date) without a bases-loaded homer was 1991, when Matt Nokes hit the team’s only grand slam on September 23 against the Brewers.

CC Sabathia gave that lead right back to the Rockies with his worst performance of the year. He gave up a season-high six runs in 4 1/3 innings, matching the number of runs he allowed in his previous seven starts spanning 44 innings pitched.

Regression came swiftly for Sabathia, but it’s hardly surprising that he faltered against the Rockies. He now has a 6.08 ERA in eight career starts against them, his second-highest ERA versus any team in his career. The highest? A 6.16 ERA in nine starts versus the Yankees.

Despite the win, it is hard to ignore how historically inept the pitching staff was in their four games against the Rockies this year. The 8.74 ERA, .633 slugging percentage and 1.034 OPS allowed were each the highest marks by a Yankee team in a season series against any opponent over the last 100 years.

Yankeemetrics: Rocky Mountain Low [June 14-15]

(Getty )
(Getty )

Mile High Mess
For much of Tuesday night, not even the thin Colorado air or a mediocre Rockies pitching staff was enough to cure the Yankees’ most recent offensive malaise. They didn’t score a run until the sixth inning, and trailing 12-3 after seven innings, the Yankees seemed destined to be blown out in the first of two games at Coors Field.

Then the floodgates opened in the eighth, as the Yankees sent 12 men to the plate and scored seven runs on eight singles. Alas, the late rally ultimately fell short, resulting in an ugly 13-10 loss.

Instead, the Yankees suffered their first loss when scoring at least 10 runs since May 29, 2010 against the Indians. (Should we mention here that the 2010 Indians finished 69-93?) That snapped a streak of 72 straight wins in games with 10-or-more runs, which was the longest active streak among AL teams.

This was also the Yankees second loss in Interleague play when scoring in double digits. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the only other time that happened was in this same ballpark – a 14-11 loss to the Rockies on June 20, 2002. The 13 runs they allowed on Tuesday was also their second-most in a road Interleague game, behind only the aforementioned 2002 slugfest against the Rockies in Denver.

Jorge De La Rosa’s performance was mostly overshadowed by the offensive fireworks, but he actually shut down the Yankees lineup, holding them to three hits and no runs in five innings. The lefty has a career 4.64 ERA, but has somehow managed to dominate the Yankees in his 13 big league seasons. He’s now 4-0 with a 0.00 ERA in his four starts against them dating back to 2006.

De La Rosa is the only pitcher in major-league history to win four straight starts against the Yankees without giving up an earned run. Four guys have put together three-start streaks like that: Schoolboy Rowe (1934-35), Doc Ayers (1917), Babe Ruth (1916) and Walter Johnson (1913).

(AP)
(AP)

Nova Rocked
Coors Field continued to be a house of horrors for the Yankees, who fell to 4-7 all-time at the ballpark after Wednesday’s loss. That’s their worst record in the last 100 seasons at any stadium where they’ve played at least 10 games.

Ivan Nova, despite impressive career numbers against National League teams and in National League ballparks, was no match for the Coors Field curse.

He entered this game with a 2.13 ERA in 13 Interleague games (12 starts), sixth-best all-time among pitchers with at least 10 Interleague starts. Nova was even better on the road, going 5-0 with a 1.12 ERA in six starts at NL stadiums before this series.

And then on Wednesday he gave up five runs in five innings against the Rockies — the same number of earned runs he’d allowed in 40 1/3 innings over his first six career Interleague outings on the road.

When Nova is at his best, his bowling-ball sinker and biting curveball generate a ton of grounders and weak contact. Against the Rockies, his ground ball rate was just 38.9 percent and he gave up a season-high 10 hits. He’s now had four starts with a ground ball rate below 50 percent, and his ERA in those games is 6.85 (with at least four runs allowed in each game); in his other four starts he has an ERA of 2.38 (with three or fewer runs allowed in each start).

Let’s end with a positive note. One night after delivering a pinch-hit RBI single in his first appearance as a Yankee, Ike Davis started his first game in pinstripes (well, actually road greys) on Wednesday afternoon. Davis, of course, is the son of former Yankee pitcher Ron Davis, making them just the second father-son combo to each play in an MLB game for the Yankees. You might have heard of the other duo: Yogi and Dale Berra.

The elder Davis spent only four seasons in the Bronx but still carved out a niche in the franchise record books. He went 14-2 in 1979 working exclusively out of the bullpen, a mark that is notable for a couple reasons: His 14 wins as a reliever are tied for the second-most by a Yankee in a single season (Luis Arroyo had 15 in 1961); his .875 win percentage is the second-highest by any Yankee pitcher with at least 15 decisions in a season, behind only Ron Guidry’s 25-3 (.893) Cy Young-winning campaign in 1978.