Yankeemetrics: The Great Escape [Aug. 29-31]

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Too little, too late
The Yankees fleeting playoff hopes hit a speed bump on Monday night as their late-inning comeback fell short in Kansas City, losing 8-5 to Royals.

Following another confounding outing by Michael Pineda and another middle-relief implosion, the Yankees found themselves down seven runs after the seventh inning, and despite battling back to twice getting the tying run at the plate, they couldn’t get the decisive hit.

After a four-run rally in the eighth pulled the Yankees within three runs, Mark Teixeira grounded out to end the inning with a man on first and second. That predictable #RISPFAIL dropped his batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs to .100 (4-for-40), the third-lowest among all players with at least 40 at-bats this season.

Starlin Castro also had a chance to be the hero in the ninth inning when came up with two outs and two men on. Kelvin Herrera threw him three straight curves; Castro took the first two for strikes then whiffed on the third one in the dirt for the final out. Castro’s line on curveballs this season fell to 6-for-52 (.115), the second-lowest batting average against the pitch in MLB (min. 50 at-bats).

In what has become an all-too-familiar tale for a Pineda start, the enigmatic right-hander showed flashes of dominance but ultimately the results in the box score were disappointing. He got rocked early, giving up three runs on five hits in the first inning, then retired 15 (!) straight batters in the second through sixth innings, before being removed in the seventh after giving up singles to the first two men he faced (who both eventually scored).

Pineda’s struggles in the opening frame are nothing new; after Monday’s disaster, he was tied for the most first-inning hits allowed and the second-most first-inning earned runs allowed, and his 7.62 first-inning ERA was the second-highest in the majors (min. 20 starts).

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Just call him Chasen Houdini
The Yankees pulled off one of their most stunning and nerve-wracking wins of the season on Tuesday, edging out the Royals, 5-4, for a ginormous victory against one of the teams they’re chasing in the wild card race.

They were celebrating at the end of the game thanks to a clutch hit in extra innings by the oft-maligned Jacoby Ellsbury, and a remarkable Houdini act to seal the win by improbable closer Chasen Shreve.

Ellsbury drove in the game-winning run in the 10th with a two-out, bases-loaded infield hit. He improved to 6-for-11 (.545) with 12 RBI with the bases loaded this season, tied with Mike Trout for the best batting average in MLB (min. 10 at-bats).

Shreve notched his first career save after escaping a bases-loaded, one out jam in the bottom of the 10th by fanning Kendrys Morales on three pitches and then getting Salvador Perez to fly out to center.

Over the last 25 seasons, the only other Yankee pitcher to strike out a guy with the bases loaded while protecting a lead in extras was — unsurprisingly — Mariano Rivera. The G.O.A.T got Mark Reynolds to swing through strike three for the final out of a 6-5, 10-inning win in Arizona on June 23, 2010.

Lost in the drama of the final frame was another solid outing by Masahiro Tanaka, who was removed following the rain delay after throwing five innings of two-run ball with four strikeouts and no walks. He finished the month of August with a nearly flawless strikeout-to-walk ratio of 38-to-1 (!), with the lone walk coming on Aug. 24 against the Mariners.

Tanaka is the first Yankee pitcher since at least 1913 to complete a month with at least 35 strikeouts and no more than one walk. In fact, just three other major-league pitchers in that 104-season span have struck out 38 or more guys and walked one or fewer in a calendar month: Cliff Lee (54 K, 1 BB in Sept. 2013), Hisashi Iwakuma (39 K, 1 BB in July 2014) and Javier Vazquez (39 K, 0 BB in May 2005).

Trading an out for a win
It was deja vu for the Yankees on Wednesday as they enjoyed free baseball for a second straight night and again notched a huge win in extras. It marked the first time the Yankees have ever won back-to-back extra-inning games versus the Royals, and the first time they’ve done that versus any team since Sept. 21-22, 2012 against the A’s.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

With the win, the Yankees are now 22-9 in games decided by one run, the second-best record in MLB behind the Rangers (30-8!) this year. Their .710 winning percentage in one-run games would be the highest single-season mark in franchise history; the current record is held by the 1963 team, which went 36-17 (.679).

This time they rallied from a four-run deficit and finally took the lead in the top of the 13th when Brian McCann delivered a sac fly to left field, scoring Didi Gregorius to make it 5-4. It was the latest go-ahead sac fly by a Yankee since Bernie Williams lofted a walk-off fly out in the 13th inning against the Red Sox on May 3, 1995.

McCann’s heroics wouldn’t have been possible without an incredible performance by the bullpen. It was truly a team effort as six relievers combined for seven scoreless and hitless innings. This was the first time ever that the Yankees won a game where they used six different relievers who each got at least one out and allowed no hits.

How did we get this far into Yankeemetrics without mentioning Mr. Gary Sanchez? Let’s fix that. Despite going 1-for-5 on Wednesday, Sanchez still finished August with a .389 batting average and .832 slugging percentage in 24 games.

Over the past 100 years, two players in their age-23 seasons or younger have hit at least .375 and slugged over .825 in any calendar month (min. 100 plate appearances): Gary Sanchez and Joe DiMaggio in July 1937.

8/29 to 8/31 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals


This rather huge 12-game stretch continues this week with three games in Kansas City. The Yankees took two of three from both the Mariners and Orioles last week, two teams they are trying to catch in the wildcard race. The Royals are in that mix as well. The Yankees and Royals played four games in Yankee Stadium back in May. New York won three.

What Have They Done Lately?

Good gravy are the Royals hot. They walloped the Red Sox last night and have won 17 of their last 21 games. That’s the kind of run the Yankees have been unable to put together this season. Kansas City is 68-62 with a -18 run differential overall this year. The Yankees are 67-62 with a -9 run differential. These two clubs are separated by a half-game in the standings and obviously zero games in the loss column. Huge series. Huge.

Offense & Defense

Despite last night’s ten-run outburst (lol Red Sox pitching, lol), runs have been hard to come by for manager Ned Yost and his players. The defending World Series champions are averaging only 3.92 runs per game with a team 88 wRC+ this season. That ain’t good. Kansas City currently has only one injured position player, but it’s an important one: 3B Mike Moustakas (109 wRC+). He’s done for the season with a torn ACL suffered in a collision in June. Brutal.

Cain. (Jamie Squire/Getty)
Cain. (Jamie Squire/Getty)

Yost is known for setting his lineup and sticking to it, even when the team slumps. It was only recently that he dropped the wholly unproductive SS Alcides Escobar (65 wRC+) from leadoff to the bottom of the lineup. Nowadays OF Paulo Orlando (96 wRC+) and OF Jarrod Dyson (74 wRC+) platoon in the leadoff spot, and are followed in order by 3B Cheslor Cuthbert (103 wRC+), RF Lorenzo Cain (96 wRC+), 1B Eric Hosmer (104 wRC+), DH Kendrys Morales (96 wRC+), C Salvador Perez (97 wRC+), and LF Alex Gordon (92 wRC+). Those are the 1-7 hitters. Yost rarely deviates.

IF Raul Mondesi Jr. (36 wRC+) and IF Christian Colon (58 wRC+) share time at second and hit ninth. Escobar hits eighth. Also on the bench are speedster OF Billy Burns (50 wRC+) and backup C Drew Butera (102 wRC+). Those two don’t play a whole lot. Perez is workhorse behind the plate. He’s started 105 of the team’s 130 games this season. Only Yadier Molina has started more games at catcher in 2016. He’s started 114. That’s nuts.

Defensively, the Royals are the best in the business. They’re so good that Dyson and Orlando recently pushed Cain to right field full-time. Cain would be the everyday center fielder on pretty much any other team. Gordon is excellent in left, as are Escobar at short, Hosmer at first, and Perez behind the plate. Cuthbert isn’t Moustakas at the hot corner, but he’s good. Ditto the two guys at second. Kansas City is going to catch the ball. It’s what they do.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (8:15pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. KC) vs. RHP Dillon Gee (vs. NYY)
Gee, the former Met, jumped into Kansas City’s rotation full-time a few weeks back, after big Chris Young pitched his way into the bullpen. The 30-year-old has a 4.55 ERA (5.06 FIP) in 99 innings across eleven starts and 15 relief appearances, and it’s worth noting he’s been way more effective as a reliever (3.05 ERA and 4.94 FIP) than as a starter (5.62 ERA and 5.14 FIP). Gee has very unimpressive underlying stats (18.3 K%, 6.9 BB%, 43.2 GB%, 1.73 HR/9) and he’s been more effective against righties than lefties. As a starter Gee will sit right around 90 mph with his sinker, and he throws the three standard issue secondary pitches: mid-80s changeup, mid-80s slider, and upper-70s curveball. He uses all of them regularly too. True four-pitch guy. The Yankees did face Gee when these two teams met in May. He limited them to one run in 5.1 innings of long relief.

Tuesday (8:15pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. KC) vs. RHP Edinson Volquez (vs. NYY)
The 33-year-old Volquez has had himself a respectable career. Twelve years in the show with a 4.36 ERA (4.26 FIP), a World Series ring, and over $23M in contracts? You could do worse. Volquez has a 4.88 ERA (4.37 FIP) in 27 starts and 156.2 innings this season with a good grounder rate (53.0%) and middling strikeout (16.5%), walk (8.1%), and homer (1.03 HR/9) numbers. His platoon split is small because his low-to-mid-80s changeup is pretty nasty. Volquez still lives in the mid-90s with his sinker, and his hard power curveball averages right around 80 mph. When he’s on, Volquez has really nasty stuff. He can be dominant if he wakes up on the right side of the bed. The Yankees did not see the veteran righty earlier this year.

IPK. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
IPK. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Wednesday (8:15pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (No vs. KC) vs. RHP Ian Kennedy (vs. NYY)
The reason the Royals are stuck trying to hang around in the wildcard race the year after winning the World Series is the rotation. It’s been pretty rough overall (4.54 ERA And 4.82 FIP). Kennedy, now 31, has been solid this season with a 3.57 ERA (4.68 FIP) in 26 starts and 153.2 innings. His strikeout (24.0%) and walk (7.5%) rates are right where they always are, but he’s been far more fly ball (33.3%) and home run (1.64 HR/9) prone than in the past. IPK’s platoon split is small. Kennedy used to be one of those guys who would mess around with six pitches, but at this point of his career he’s scaled it back to four: low-90s four-seamer, upper-80s cutter, low-80s changeup, upper-70s curveball. The Yankees scored seven runs in 6.1 innings against their 2006 first round pick back in May.

Bullpen Status

A few weeks ago the Royals lost all-world closer Wade Davis to a flexor tendon strain, and he only recently began facing hitters as part of his rehab work. He’ll rejoin the team after rosters expand in September, but not this series. Here is the relief crew Yost has at his disposal:

Closer: RHP Kelvin Herrera (1.84 ERA/2.11 FIP)
Setup: RHP Joakim Soria (3.67/4.36)
Middle: LHP Brian Flynn (2.66/3.19), RHP Peter Moylan (3.62/3.61), LHP Matt Strahm (0.68/1.05)
Long: RHP Chris Young (5.74/6.29), RHP Chien-Ming Wang (4.38/4.65)

Strahm’s the secret weapon. He was called up straight from Double-A after Davis got hurt, and so far he’s struck out 20 batters in 13.1 innings. Strahm has pitched like Davis, basically. He’s starting to take setup innings from Soria, who is still solid, but is no longer the pitcher he was a few years ago. That second Tommy John surgery is a doozy.

Strahm (45 pitches), Moylan (12 pitches), and Soria (28 pitches) all pitched last night. Wanger threw three innings and 44 pitches in mop-up duty Saturday night, so he might not be available tonight or tomorrow. They have to be careful with his shoulder. Hopefully we get to see him pitch at some point this series though, preferably with the Royals down big. Nothin’ but love for CMW. Check out our Bullpen Status for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relievers.

Trade Deadline Notes: Beltran, Royals, Nationals, Rangers

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

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

Yankees, Royals talked Beltran

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

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

Yankees scouting Nationals, Triple-A affiliate

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

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

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

Rangers want Yankees to take on money in potential Miller trade

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

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

Cubs, others continue to scout Yankees

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

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

Royals claim Tyler Olson off waivers from Yankees


The Royals have claimed left-hander Tyler Olson off waivers from the Yankees, the team announced. He was optioned to their Triple-A affiliate. The Yankees designated Olson for assignment the other day to clear a 40-man roster spot for Anthony Swarzak.

Olson, 26, came over from the Dodgers in a minor trade over the winter. He’s spent most of the season with Triple-A Scranton, where he had a 5.27 ERA (3.59 FIP) in 27.1 innings with the RailRiders. Olson had two separate stints with the Yankees but only appeared in one game, allowing two runs in 2.2 innings.

The Yankees are fairly deep in left-handed relievers, though most of them are hurt. Chasen Shreve, Jacob Lindgren, James Pazos, and Phil Coke are all on the DL. Of course, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman are healthy, plus Richard Bleier is on the roster as well. Olson was completely expendable.

Yankeemetrics: Let the good times roll [May 9-12]

(Photo credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)
(Photo credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

It is high, it is far …
The Yankees turned back the clock on Monday night, showing a rare display of offensive fireworks and power in their 6-3 win over the Royals in the series opener. They hit a season-high five homers, all of them in the first three innings. The Yankees entered the week with only 25 homers, tied for the second-fewest in the AL; they’d hit just five homers in their previous 11 games combined.

A five-homer game isn’t rare by itself, the Yankees have done that more than 100 times in their history, but to score only six runs … now that’s something. Only six other times have the Yankees scored six or fewer runs in a game they also crushed at least five longballs.

Royals starter Chris Young served up all five dingers before getting the hook in the third inning. He’s just the second pitcher in the Live Ball Era (since 1920) to allow at least five home runs and get fewer than nine outs against the Yankees. Rob Bell also pulled off the feat on August 1, 2001 in a game the Yankees won 9-7 over the Rangers at the Stadium.

Aroldis Chapman made his season debut and his left arm looked to be in mid-season form, with six of his 17 pitches hitting triple digits on the radar gun, per Statcast data. Four of those fastballs were 101 mph or faster, matching the same number that all other major-leaguers had thrown in the first month-plus of this season.

Small-ball wins games, too
One day after the Yankees rode the gopher ball to their 12th win of the season, they flipped the script and used a bunch of timely singles, doubles and productive outs to get lucky No. 13. This time it was the Yankee pitchers that were bit by the home run bug, allowing four longballs on the night.

The only other game in the last two decades that the Yankees won while giving up at least four home runs and hitting zero was September 25, 2014 against the Orioles. That’s not an insignificant game, if you remember. It was Derek Jeter‘s final home game, one that ended with The Captain putting a bow on his storybook career with a game-winning, walk-off single in the ninth inning.

Lorenzo Cain would have been the hero in Tuesday’s game, if the Yankees hadn’t pulled out the victory. Cain hit three home runs, becoming the first center fielder to do that against the Yankees since Ken Griffey Jr. on May 24, 1996. He also joined Bo Jackson (1990) and George Brett (1978 ALCS) as the only Royals to go deep three times against the Yankees. Finally, Cain is the ninth visiting player with at least three dingers at Yankee Stadium (including the postseason) — but the only other guy that was on the losing end was Brett.

Little Mike
The Yankees crashed back to reality on Wednesday night as their familiar failures resurfaced in a 7-3 loss to the Royals: ineffective starting pitching (see Pineda, Michael) and awful clutch hitting (1-for-13 with RISP). Their modest two-game win streak was snapped, leaving them as one of three teams (along with the Padres and Astros) this season that haven’t won more than two games in a row.

This is the latest into a season (32 games) that the Yankees have failed to put together a win streak of at least three games since 1925. That team had its first three-game win streak on July 30, in its 95th game, after sweeping the St. Louis Browns.

Michael Pineda‘s struggles in the first inning have become a significant problem – he’s now got a 15.43 ERA and batters are hitting .500/.535/1.026 against him in the opening frame – but his lack of control was also really troubling. He walked four guys and plunked two more, the first time he’s ever done that in a game in his career. The last Yankee to produce a pitching line like Pineda’s (six runs allowed, four walks, two hit batters) was Randy Johnson on April 29, 2006 against the Blue Jays.

(Photo credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)
(Photo credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

Miracle on 161st Street
Our long national nightmare is finally over. With one swing of the bat, Chase Headley broke out of the most miserable slump of his career and did it in style, drilling a two-run homer to left field in the second inning of Thursday’s game. That was his first extra-base hit of 2016, snapping a 90 at-bat streak that was the longest to open a season by any Yankee player since Roy White in 1973 (93 at-bats). Hey Chase, keep your chin up: White somehow ended that season with 43 extra-base hits (18 homers, 22 doubles, 3 triples).

Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius also joined the homer parade, powering the Yankees to a convincing 7-3 win over the defending world champs. The Yankees are now an impressive 10-1 when scoring at least four runs in a game, the third-best record in such situations, behind only the Cubs (24-2) and Mariners (16-1). That’s the good news. The bad news is that even after Thursday’s victory, no team has fewer games scoring four-or-more runs than the Yankees this season.

5/9 to 5/12 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals

Wanger! (Presswire)
Wanger! (Presswire)

Welcome to the year 2016, where the Yankees are in last place and the Royals are the defending World Series champions. The baseball world is a strange place these days. The Royals are in the Bronx this week for a four-game series. This is their only visit to Yankee Stadium this season.

What Have They Done Lately?

Things have not gone too well for Kansas City lately. After starting the season 8-2, the Royals have gone 7-13 in their last 20 games. They’re 3-9 in their last 12 games after losing two of three to the Indians over the weekend. The Royals are 15-15 with a -13 run differential overall this season. They’re six back of the White Sox in the AL Central.

Offense & Defense

Believe it or not, there is an AL team that has struggled to score runs even more than the Yankees this season. That team is the Royals. They are averaging 3.40 runs per game while the Yankees are at 3.48. That said, the Royals have a team 88 wRC+. The Yankees have an 84 wRC+. Sigh. Kansas City’s only injured position player is an important one: 3B Mike Moustakas (136 wRC+). He was placed on the DL with a broken thumb Saturday, so he’s out for the series.

Hosmer. (Jamie Squire/Getty)
Hosmer. (Jamie Squire/Getty)

With Moose Tacos out, the regular No. 2 hitter, manager Ned Yost has simply slid everyone else in the lineup up a spot. SS Alcides Escobar (65 wRC+) continues to lead off — hey, they won a World Series doing that, so why not? — and is now followed in order by CF Lorenzo Cain (80 wRC+), 1B Eric Hosmer (157 wRC+), DH Kendrys Morales (56 wRC+), and LF Alex Gordon (86 wRC+). That’s the standard batting order. Yost doesn’t mix things up much.

C Salvador Perez (95 wRC+) doesn’t do anything well according to the numbers, but he strikes me as the type of player who would really benefit from a “works with pitchers” metric. I believe his intangibles are off-the-charts good. 2B Omar Infante (67 wRC+) and RF Jarrod Dyson (66 wRC+) are the other regulars. IF Christian Colon (75 wRC+) and IF Cheslor Cuthbert (2-for-8) are tag-teaming third base for the time being. C Drew Butera (4-for-10) and OF Paulo Orlando (42 wRC+) are the other bench players. The Royals are currently carrying eight relievers, which seems to be a thing around the league now.

Defensively, there is no better team in baseball than Kansas City. They do take a hit at third with Moustakas out, but they’re no worse than average everywhere else. Check out their projected defensive runs saved visualization from Sean Dolinar:

Royals defense

That’s a lot of blue! The Royals catch everything, especially the Gordon-Cain-Dyson outfield. Opponents have a 0.293 BABIP on fly balls and live drives against Kansas City this season. The league average is .357. Yeah.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (7pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. KC) vs. RHP Chris Young (vs. NYY)
Five years ago it appeared Young’s career was over. He had surgery to repair an impingement in his shoulder in 2009, missed almost the entire 2010 season with a shoulder sprain, then had surgery in 2011 to repair a torn labrum. Young went through all the rehab and is still out there slingin’. Good for him. Young, 36, has a 5.76 ERA (5.74 FIP) with a good strikeout rate (22.0%) and a walk rate (8.3%) in line with his career average. He’s an extreme fly ball pitcher (32.2%) who has always been home run prone, though not as homer prone as this season (2.43 HR/9). Lefties have historically hit him much harder than righties. Young is as unique as any pitcher in baseball. He’s 6-foot-10 and he pitches up in the zone with a fastball that averages 88 mph, which results in a ton of pop-ups. He also mixes in a low-80s slider and very rarely throws his low-80s changeup. The Royals have Young on a short leash. He’s averaging only 90 pitches per start and three times in six starts has he failed to complete five innings. After all those shoulder problems he doesn’t have the stamina to pitch deeper into games.

Tuesday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. KC) vs. RHP Kris Medlen (vs. NYY)
Medlen, 30, missed all of 2014 and the first half of 2015 following his second Tommy John surgery. This year he has a 6.85 ERA (4.91 FIP) in five starts and 22.1 innings, and, like Young, the Royals typically don’t let him go through the lineup a third time. Medlen’s grounder (48.6%) and homer rates (0.81 HR/9) are fine, and you can live with his strikeout rate (17.1%), but walks are a big problem (16.2%). To be fair, he’s issued 13 of his 17 walks in two of those five starts. He has four walks in the other three starts. Medlen has been a bit better against righties than lefties throughout his career, and these days his primary fastball is a low-90s sinker. A mid-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball are his go-to secondary pitches, though he’ll also mix in some low-80s sliders too.

Duckface Ventura. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Duckface Ventura. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Wednesday (7pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. KC) vs. RHP Yordano Ventura (vs. NYY)
The 24-year-old Ventura is a reminder that not every live-armed prospect makes it big. He has a 4.65 ERA (5.24 FIP) with exactly as many walks as strikeouts (17.6%) in six starts and 31 innings this year. His grounder (42.2%) and homer numbers (0.87 HR/9) are a bit more normal, and throughout his career his platoon split has been small. Ventura sits in the mid-90s with his four-seamer and sinker nowadays — he hasn’t hit triple digits since last September — and he’ll throw a ton of upper-80s changeups and low-80s curveballs. He’s about 50/50 with fastballs and non-fastballs. Ventura can dominate on his best days. On others he’ll leave the Royals pulling their hair out.

Thursday (7pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. KC) vs. RHP Ian Kennedy (vs. NYY)
For the first time since being traded as part of the package for Curtis Granderson, Kennedy returns to Yankee Stadium as a visiting player. In fact, this will be his first career pitching appearance in the new Stadium. He pitched in only one game with the 2009 Yankees and it was on the road. Kennedy, now 31, has a 2.13 ERA (3.60 FIP) six starts and 38 innings into his Royals career. His strikeout (23.2%), walk (8.6%), and ground ball (35.7%) numbers are right in line with his career norms, though his homer rate (0.71 HR/9) is much lower than usual. His platoon split has been negligible. Kennedy used to be one of those guys who would mess around with six pitches, but at this point of his career he’s scaled it back to four: low-90s four-seamer, upper-80s cutter, low-80s changeup, upper-70s curveball. IPK has turned into exactly what he was projected to become when the Yankees drafted him in 2006, and that’s a mid-rotation workhorse.

Bullpen Status

The Royals are credited with making elite bullpens popular — did everyone not realize good relievers are better than bad relievers before 2014 or something? — but their relief crew this summer has been short of outstanding. They rank in sixth in ERA (2.75), ninth in FIP (3.51), and 13th in fWAR (+0.8). Hangover from two straight deep postseason runs? Maybe. Here is Yost’s relief crew.

RHP Wade Davis: 10.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 11 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Sun., 0 pitches. Sat)
LHP Danny Duffy: 16 IP, 16 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 19 K, 1 HR (23 pitches Sun., 0 pitches. Sat)
LHP Brian Flynn: 4 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Sun., 0 pitches. Sat)
RHP Dillon Gee: 15.1 IP, 15 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 7 BB, 13 K, 4 HR (0 pitches Sun., 0 pitches. Sat)
RHP Kelvin Herrera: 14.1 IP, 11 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 19 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Sun., 13 pitches. Sat)
RHP Luke Hochevar: 12.1 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 12 K, 2 HR (10 pitches Sun., 0 pitches. Sat)
RHP Joakim Soria: 15.1 IP, 15 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 8 BB, 13 K, 2 HR (13 pitches Sun., 11 pitches. Sat)
RHP Chien-Ming Wang: 10.1 IP, 13 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 8 K (0 pitches Sun., 0 pitches. Sat)

Man, I want Wang to pitch this series so much. He has never been the same since the foot injury in Houston back in 2008. It sucks. Wanger has found some success as a long man this season, partly because he’s throwing harder than he has at any point since blowing out his shoulder in 2009 …

Chien-Ming Wang velocity… so that’s great to see. Nothing but love for CMW. He was a damn good Yankee for a few years. I hope he gets a big ovation this week. And hopefully he’s coming in to mop-up a blowout loss. Best of both worlds.

As for the rest of the bullpen, Soria has really struggled as the replacement for Ryan Madson in the team’s late-inning trio with Herrera and Davis. Those two are still really great in the eighth and ninth innings, so if the Royals have a lead after seven, the game is probably over.

The Yankees, meanwhile, are getting Aroldis Chapman back today. Well, not back. He’s joining them for the first time. You know what I mean. So just like that, the Yankees have a new closer. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relievers.

The Rest of MLB [2016 Season Preview]


The new season is upon us. Opening Day is Monday, which means it’s time to wrap up our annual Season Preview series. As always, we’ll end the series with a quick look around the league. Some of this is serious, most of it isn’t. Enjoy.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Why They’ll Suck: The middle infield is a mess and their corner outfield defense is going to be pretty bad if Yasmany Tomas plays left everyday. Also, they’ll probably trade some good players to unload a bad contract again.
Bold Prediction: Shelby Miller actually pitches well. I have no idea why so many analysts think he’s bad.

Atlanta Braves
Why They’ll Suck: Because they are trying to suck. Rebuilding is just a nice way of saying tanking.
Bold Prediction: Nick Markakis beats his ZiPS projection and slugs .370.

Chicago Cubs
Why They’ll Suck: They’re going to strike out way too much. It’s also only a matter of time until someone gets bit by some wild animal Joe Maddon brings into the clubhouse.
Bold Prediction: Adam Warren is their best starter. Boom!

Chicago White Sox
Why They’ll Suck: They lost their leader, Drake LaRoche.
Bold Prediction: We find out Adam LaRoche was the one who complained about Drake LaRoche being in the clubhouse all the time.

Cincinnati Reds
Why They’ll Suck: Their rotation is Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen, Jon Moscot, and John Lamb. No, wait, that’s the list of their injured starters. Now they have to turn to the B-team.
Bold Prediction: Joey Votto finally loses his mind, but in a polite, Canadian way. He’s already doing this between pitches:

Joey Votto

Cleveland Indians
Why They’ll Suck: In all seriousness, their entire starting outfield is either hurt (Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall) or suspended (Abe Almonte). They’re a Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco injury away from 85 losses. Beware.
Bold Prediction: Francisco Lindor leads all shortstops in WAR.

Colorado Rockies
Why They’ll Suck: The Rockies exist in a perpetual state of suck. Fun Fact: They have never once won a division title. They’ve finished as high as second place only three times in their 23 years of existence.
Bold Prediction: They finally trade Carlos Gonzalez. I’m thinking … Orioles.

Detroit Tigers
Why They’ll Suck: They’ve punted defense at the four corner positions and, inevitably, the relievers they acquired this winter will stink.
Bold Prediction: Justin Verlander bounces back and finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting.

Houston Astros
Why They’ll Suck: Karma for doing very little in the offseason outside of adding a new closer and fifth starter. The rebuild is supposed to be over.
Bold Prediction: Carlos Correa is more Alex Gonzalez than Alex Rodriguez.

Kansas City Royals
Why They’ll Suck: They replaced Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist with Ian Kennedy and Christian Colon. Like, on purpose.
Bold Prediction: Kennedy wins 18 games and Colon hits .310. Eff the Royals, man.

Los Angeles Angels
Why They’ll Suck: The Angels have surrounded Mike Trout with as little position player talent as possible in an effort to make him look even greater by comparison.
Bold Prediction: Jered Weaver’s fastball hits 84 mph once or twice.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Why They’ll Suck: The Dodgers have surrounded Clayton Kershaw with as little pitching talent as possible in an effort to make him look even greater by comparison.
Bold Prediction: It becomes clear Yasiel Puig peaked early.

Miami Marlins
Why They’ll Suck: The fans and players are doomed to pay for Jeffrey Loria’s evil villian-ness. Fun Fact: They’ve never won a division title either. They’ve also never lost a postseason series.
Bold Prediction: Christian Yelich breaks out and puts up Andrew McCutchen numbers. I’m serious about that one.

Milwaukee Brewers
Why They’ll Suck: They’re another team that is going to suck on purpose. Before long they’re going to trade Jonathan Lucroy too.
Bold Prediction: Ramon Flores hits 15 dingers with a .350 OBP.

Minnesota Twins
Why They’ll Suck: I don’t know, but I’m sure Twins fans will blame it on Joe Mauer.
Bold Prediction: Miguel Sano plays right field better than Torii Hunter did last year.

New York Mets
Why They’ll Suck: They’re still the Mets. Case in point: the recent Matt Harvey bladder story. Last year’s pennant didn’t change anything in that regard.
Bold Prediction: They have to trade for a starting pitcher at the deadline.

Oakland Athletics
Why They’ll Suck: No joke, I can name only one A’s starter (Sonny Gray) and one A’s infielder (Marcus Semien). Is Bobby Crosby still playing?
Bold Prediction: Josh Reddick gets traded for a holy crap package at the trade deadline. I’m thinking … Royals.

Philadelphia Phillies
Why They’ll Suck: Still reeling from the 2009 World Series, obviously.
Bold Prediction: Someone not named Maikel Franco or Ryan Howard hits a home run.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Why They’ll Suck: The baseball gods will not let John Jaso’s hair go unpunished.


Bold Prediction: Mark Melancon is traded at the deadline. I’m thinking … Dodgers.

St. Louis Cardinals
Why They’ll Suck: The Cardinals will never suck. The only thing they suck at is sucking. Their ace made four starts and their highest paid position player hit four home runs last season, and they still won 100 games. The Cardinals, man.
Bold Prediction: Three years after learning to play second base and one year after learning to hit for power, Matt Carpenter picks up pitching and saves 46 games.

San Diego Padres
Why They’ll Suck: I’m not entirely convinced the Padres exist at this point. Are we sure MLB still lets them into the league? What an amazingly nondescript franchise.
Bold Prediction: Someone throws the first no-hitter in franchise history. I’ll go with Colin Rea, who is a real player and definitely not someone I just made up.

San Francisco Giants
Why They’ll Suck: They buy into the “even year trend” a little too much and give Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner weeks off at a time this summer.
Bold Prediction: Bumgarner out-slugs the starting outfield.

Seattle Mariners
Why They’ll Suck: I don’t know how it will happen exactly, but they’ll suck. The Mariners are the Wile E. Coyote of MLB. Every time they looked poised for success, they crash into the mountain with a tunnel painted on the side of it.
Bold Prediction: Bob Cano mashes 30 taters and finishes in the top three of the MVP voting. I’m expecting a big year from Robbie.

Texas Rangers
Why They’ll Suck: They won’t suck. They’ll be just good enough to get thisclose to winning something meaningful before having it ripped away again. Think Game Six of the 2011 World Series, or the seventh inning of Game Five of last year’s ALDS. That’s how the Rangers roll.
Bold Prediction: Josh Hamilton leads the team in home runs.

Washington Nationals
Why They’ll Suck: They’re the NL version of the Red Sox. They have talent and everyone buys the hype. It should work! But it doesn’t.

Homer Simpson

Bold Prediction: Bryce Harper is even better this year.