2013 Midseason Review: Grade C’s

No, it’s not the literal midway point of the season, but we’re going to use the four-day All-Star break to review the Yankees’ performance to date. We’re handing out letter grades, A through F. We’ve already tackled the A’s and the B’s, now it’s time for the C’s.

(Jeff Gross/Getty)
(Jeff Gross/Getty)

I guess that, by definition, a grade C is average, right? It is right in the middle of the A through F scale, but I’m not sure that really applies to baseball though. For every A there are a hundred F’s and for every B there are a couple dozen D’s. Grade C is closer to the top than the bottom, I think, slightly better than average.

Anyway, the Yankees sit in fourth place and three games out of a playoff spot at the All-Star break because they’ve gotten a lot of mediocre performances and very few really good ones. Some guys have wound up C’s because they’re disappointments, but others are here because they’re doing pretty much exactly what’s expected. Heck, some are even here because they’ve been surprisingly good. I’m trying to keep this objective and not look at performance vs. expectations, however. Easier said than done, obviously.

Enough rambling, onto the grade C’s.

Preston Claiborne
It happens almost every year. A known but not necessarily highly-touted young arm comes up from the farm system and impresses in relief for the Yankees. Claiborne has followed in the footsteps of David Phelps (2012) and Hector Noesi (2011) by posting a 2.43 ERA and 3.03 FIP in 29.2 innings. He was excellent early on but has faltered a bit of late, which is not atypical of young relievers. Claiborne stepped in when Joba Chamberlain hit the DL and didn’t just temporarily fill the hole, he upgraded the bullpen.

Ivan Nova
This has been a tale of two seasons for Nova, who owns a very good 3.63 ERA and an excellent 3.00 FIP in 52 overall innings. He was awful before going down with a triceps issue (6.48 ERA and 3.11 FIP in 16.2 innings), good in two brief relief appearances after getting healthy (one run in six innings), and outstanding since coming back up from the minors (2.45 ERA and 2.65 FIP in 29.1 innings). Which Nova will the Yankees get going forward? Who knows. He’s gone from excellent to awful and back again so many times in the last two years. Right now he has a rotation spot thanks to the Phelps’ injury and will get an opportunity to show this latest version is the real Ivan Nova.

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

Andy Pettitte
Emotions are a tricky thing. They make you say things that aren’t true just because they once were and you want to believe they still are. “Andy Pettitte is still a reliable mid-rotation starter” is one of those things. Pettitte, who has a 4.39 ERA and 3.75 FIP in 16 starts, has had a season very appropriate for baseball’s oldest starting pitcher. The 41-year-old battled nagging back and lat problems early in the year and has been pretty hittable of late, pitching to a 4.96 ERA and 3.28 FIP in eight starts since coming off the DL. Older finesse pitchers are exactly the kind of guys who underperform their peripherals. Andy has been a dandy number four or five starter, but he hasn’t been particularly reliable or durable this year.

Ichiro Suzuki
Supposedly team ownership — or at least someone above the baseball operations level — brought Ichiro back on a two-year deal this past winter, a definite head-scratcher of a move. A recent hot streak has raised his season line to .283/.320/.393 (92 wRC+), which is almost identical to the .283/.307/.390 (91 wRC+) line he put up last season. He’s no longer a true burner (on pace for 22 steals) or an elite defender (especially considering how he wastes his arm strength by taking forever to get rid of the ball), but he’s an above-average contributor both on the bases and in the field. A below-average offensive player and above-average defender in right field is a serviceable player, but not exactly a world-burner. Ichiro didn’t completely fall off a cliff this year, and that’s about the best thing you can say about his 2013.

Adam Warren
Warren was in a weird place coming into this season, mostly because he appeared to be ticketed for a third trip to Triple-A Scranton since there was no big league opening for him. That’s how careers stall. Phil Hughes started the year on the DL with a back problem though, opening the long-man role for Warren. When Nova went down, that spot stayed open. Warren took advantage of that opportunity and has pitched to a 3.09 ERA and 3.84 FIP while averaging more than 2.2 innings per appearance. He’s had some real bullpen savers this year, including 5.1 innings on April 3rd (one run), four scoreless innings on both May 13th and May 22th, and six scoreless innings in the 18-inning marathon against the Athletics on June 13th. Long reliever is a mostly thankless job, but Warren has excelled in that role and put himself in position to be considered for a starting job next season, or maybe even in the second half of this year.

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Ivan Nova remains with Yankees, could make spot start

While speaking to reporters this afternoon, Joe Girardi confirmed Ivan Nova will not be sent to Triple-A Scranton today and will instead remain with the team for the time being. The right-hander will throw his regular between-starts bullpen session today, and Girardi indicated Nova could make another spot start at some point before the All-Star break. When? Who knows. Until they figure out a plan, the team will be playing with a three-man bench. Not ideal.

Game 75: Old Timers’ Day

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

There isn’t another team in sports that can pull off an event like Old Timers’ Day, at least not on the same scale as the Yankees. Hall of Famers, bench players, solid regulars, and a whole bunch of World Champions will be on the field today as the team celebrates its history. The awesomeness of Old Timers’ Day doesn’t translate well across television — it really is an event everyone should experience in person at least once. I highly recommend it.

The full roster of Old Timers can be found right here. Among the first timers are Orlando Hernandez, John Flaherty, and Andy Phillips. I am most looking forward to seeing El Duque again; hopefully he pitches in the Old Timers’ Game. Jorge Posada will not be making his debut this summer, but it’ll happen eventually. I am definitely looking forward to it.

The ceremony and baseline introductions start at 11:15am ET with the Old Timers’ Game to follow. All of that can be seen on YES. The Yankees and Rays are scheduled to start at 2:05pm ET, which you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and TBS nationally. Enjoy all of it.

Update (11:34am): Here is the lineup for Yankees-Rays, which is identical to yesterday’s:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Ichiro Suzuki
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. DH Travis Hafner
  5. 1B Lyle Overbay
  6. LF Zoilo Almonte
  7. SS Jayson Nix
  8. 3B David Adams
  9. C Chris Stewart

The roster move has not been announced yet, but Ivan Nova will be summoned from Triple-A to start the game. The rotation was thrown out of whack by Tuesday’s rainout.

Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (wrist) was checked out by the doctor yesterday but has not yet been cleared to resume any kind of activity. They’ll re-evaluate again soon and go from there.

Roster Move (12:04pm): Thomas Neal has been optioned to Triple-A Scranton to clear a spot for Nova. He went 2-for-11 (.182) in four games with New York after being called up last week, but Almonte has since zoomed passed him on the outfield depth chart. The Yankees currently have a 13-man pitching staff and a three-man bench, but it seems likely Nova will be sent down following the spot start.

Yankees activate Teixeira & Youkilis; send Nuno & Nova to Triple-A

The Yankees have officially activated both Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis off the 60-day and 15-day DL, respectively, the team announced. Vidal Nuno and Ivan Nova were sent to Triple-A to clear 25-man roster spots. The Yankees had two open 40-man roster spots, so they didn’t need to make another move to accommodate Tex.

With Andy Pettitte set to turn on Monday, Nuno was an obvious send down candidate. Nova threw 61 pitches on Wednesday and was going to out of commission for another day or two anyway, so he was the other move. I assume both guys will step into the Triple-A Scranton rotation and start every five days. When Pettitte returns, the Yankees are likely to demote a position player — David Adams seems most likely now that his bat has cooled off — and get back to a normal 13 position players, 12 pitchers roster.

Yankees activate Ivan Nova, send Dellin Betances to Triple-A

The Yankees have activated Ivan Nova off the DL, the team announced. Dellin Betances has been returned to Triple-A Scranton to clear a roster spot. Nova will pitch out of the bullpen for the time being.

Nova, 26, missed nearly a month with a triceps issue and back soreness. He pitched to a 6.48 ERA (3.64 FIP) in 16.2 innings spread across four starts before the injury. Nova has never pitched out of the bullpen for an extended period of time in his career, so it will be a new experience for him. There hasn’t been any indication about how Joe Girardi will use him, but I doubt he’ll be given high-leverage work or anything like that. Probably mop-up duty at first.

Injury Updates: Pineda, Hafner, Joba, More

(John Munson/Star-Ledger)
(John Munson/Star-Ledger)

Got a trio of injury updates to pass along…

  • Michael Pineda (shoulder) will throw 50 pitches in an Extended Spring Training game tomorrow. Brian Cashman has said they want to stretch him out to 65 pitches before sending him out on an official rehab assignment. Seems like the earliest possible return is late-June. [Jack Curry]
  • Travis Hafner (shoulder) will take batting practice before tonight’s game. If that goes well, he will be available off the bench as a pinch-hitter. The Yankees will face left-hander Mark Buehrle on Friday, so I guess the earliest Pronk will return to the lineup is Saturday. [Meredith Marakovits]
  • Joba Chamberlain (oblique) is not yet ready to come off the DL. He’ll make at least one more minor league rehab appearance with Triple-A Scranton. The Yankees swapped Brett Marshall for Dellin Betances today, just to add a fresh arm to the bullpen. [Bryan Hoch]

Update: Chad Jennings has lots more injury news, so let’s recap…

  • Derek Jeter (ankle) was checked out recently and although he’s healing well, he’s still not ready to do any sort of baseball activities. He could shed his walking boot soon, however.
  • Ivan Nova (triceps) will pitch in a minor league game on Monday. He felt some discomfort in his back last week, near his left shoulder, so he’s been setback a bit.
  • Alex Rodriguez (hip) hit off a tee and soft toss the other day. It’s slow and stud with him, a minor league rehab assignment is still a long ways off.
  • Kevin Youkilis (back) has also been hitting off a tee and soft toss, and he’s expected to take batting practice soon. Seems like David Adams‘ audition at third base will last for at least a few weeks.

Ivan Nova and Monday’s doubleheader

Via George King & Chad Jennings: Joe Girardi confirmed Ivan Nova is a candidate to start one game of Monday’s doubleheader against the Indians if he comes through today’s Extended Spring Training game well. “As long as he feels good and throws the ball well (it’s possible),” said the skipper. “We are allowed to add that 26th man [for doubleheaders].”

Nova, 26, is on the DL with a triceps issue and is eligible to be activated on Sunday. I’m probably reading too much into this, but I thought it was interesting Girardi mentioned the 26th man. The rules say the 26th player has to go back to the minors immediately following the doubleheader, so either they’ll have to rearrange the bullpen — technically send down Vidal Nuno or Preston Claiborne, called them back up as the 26th man — or Nova’s going to minors to work on things following that game. My money’s on the former.