Game 72: The Return of Ivan Nova

(Maddie Meyer/Getty)
(Maddie Meyer/Getty)

For the first time since April 19th of last season, Ivan Nova will be on the mound for the Yankees this afternoon. The real Yankees too. Not the Tampa Yankees or another minor league affiliate. His rehab from Tommy John surgery is complete and today he returns to the rotation. What to expect? Who knows. Nova was unpredictable even before having his elbow rebuilt.

The Yankees are getting Nova back today but, more importantly, they have to avoid being swept by the Phillies. The Phillies! The worst team in baseball. The worst offense in baseball has scored eleven runs in each of the first two games of the series — the Phillies went from averaging 3.10 runs per game to 3.32 runs per game thanks to the Yankees — and today they’re sending ace Cole Hamels to the mound. Good grief. Here is the Phils’ lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. LF Chris Young
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Jose Pirela
    RHP Ivan Nova

It’s a gorgeous day in New York. Nice and sunny with temperatures comfortably in the upper-70s/low-80s. Just a perfect afternoon for a ballgame. Today’s series finale will begin 1:05pm ET and you can watch live on YES locally and, depending on where you live, MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Teixeira (neck) took batting practice and felt good, so he’s back in the lineup … Andrew Miller (forearm) played catch today for the first time since being shut down. He made 25 throws and everything went well … Brendan Ryan was placed on the 15-day DL with an upper-back strain. One thing after another with that guy.

Roster Move: Jose DePaula was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for Nova, the Yankees announced … Ryan to the DL cleared the 25-man roster spot.

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Game 71: Maybe Don’t Allow 10+ Runs Again?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees allowed 11 and 12 runs in their last two games, respectively, and not surprisingly both resulted in losses. In fact, they’ve allowed 11, 12, 12, 2, 9, and 11 runs in their last six losses, which is really bad. The last two losses came with Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka on the mound, which is even harder to swallow. Pineda got roughed up by literally the worst offense in baseball.

Tonight the Yankees turn to their former ace CC Sabathia to do something Pineda and Tanaka couldn’t the last two days — pitch a winnable game. They’re averaging over seven runs per game on the homestand. The offense is holding up its end of the bargain. The Phillies are really bad, worst offense in baseball in terms of runs per game (3.21), so everything is set up for Sabathia to have a good start. Now he just needs to actually do it. Here is Philadelphia’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 1B Garrett Jones
  7. LF Chris Young
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Jose Pirela
    LHP CC Sabathia

Really gross day in New York today. Hot and sticky, and there are thunderstorms in the forecast tonight. I’m not sure when they will start and stop — the rain was supposed to start this afternoon but that didn’t happen — so it’ll be a surprise. Tonight’s game is scheduled to start at 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (neck) received a cortisone shot yesterday after an MRI showing nothing serious. He could return as soon as tomorrow … nothing new with Jacoby Ellsbury (knee), who is still taking batting practice and running the bases. No word on when he’ll take the next step in his rehab, which I assume involves some game action.

Roster Moves: Stephen Drew has been placed on the paternity list and Ramon Flores was sent to Triple-A, the Yankees announced. Bryan Mitchell was called back up — Drew going on the paternity list allowed the Yankees to bring him back before the ten days were up — as was Jose Pirela. The Yankees have a bunch of games against lefty starters coming up, so Pirela figures to play these next few days.

Start Time Update (6:51pm ET): The start of the game will be delayed, the Yankees announced. It is not raining right now but it is expected to start any minute. No word on a start time. “We will have one once the weather system moving thru the area works its way through,” said the team, according to Dan Barbarisi. First rain delay of the season!

Start Time Update (7:59pm ET): The Yankees say the game will begin at approximately 8:25pm ET. Baseball!

Game 70: Big Mike and the Phillies

BIG MIKE IS HERE

The Yankees open a three-game series with the punchless Phillies this evening — Philadelphia has baseball’s worst offense in terms of runs per game (3.10) and wRC+ (75) — and they’re sending Michael Pineda to the mound. Last time out Big Mike took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Marlins. There is no such thing as a guaranteed win in baseball, but man, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel good going into this game.

Anyway, the Yankees got blown out by the Tigers on Sunday and that sucked. They had won four straight before that though, and this series with the Phillies is a great opportunity to shake off the blowout and pile up some wins. The Yankees have to take care of business this series. The Phillies are terrible and they need to beat teams like this to remain in the hunt in the AL East. The division is too close to give away series to bad teams. Here is Philadelphia’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 1B Garrett Jones
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. LF Chris Young
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s a gorgeous day in New York. Just perfect for baseball. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch live on WPIX. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Mark Teixeira is out of the lineup with a stiff neck. It’s been bothering him on and off for a week or so now. Teixeira went for an MRI today and Joe Girardi said he expects him to be back in the lineup in a day or two … Andrew Miller (forearm) will play catch on Wednesday.

Roster Update: In case you missed it earlier, Ivan Nova will start Wednesday and the Yankees will temporarily shift to a six-man rotation … as expected, both Nick Rumbelow and Diego Moreno were called up from Triple-A Scranton. Jose DePaula and Danny Burawa were sent down yesterday.

All-Star Update: MLB released the latest AL All-Star Game voting update today, and the good news is it is no longer Mike Trout and the Royals. Now it’s Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, and the Royals. No Yankees are remotely close to the top spot for their positions. No non-Royals other than Trout and Cabrera are, basically.

Game 66: 3,000?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

We are now firmly in “it could happen any day now” territory as Alex Rodriguez pursues his 3,000th career hit. A-Rod is only three hits away and he’s had two three-hit games already this season. Both came immediately following off-days too, which might not be a coincidence. “I felt like my body was charged up and got some good energy,” he said to Chad Jennings last night, his first start after two days out of the lineup in the NL park.

A-Rod did play yesterday, so he’s not coming off an off-day, and believe it or not he’s never faced tonight’s Marlins starter Mat Latos before, so who knows what will happen. Most importantly, the Yankees need to build off last night’s win, regardless of whether Alex makes history. The top four teams in the AL East came into the day separated by two games in the standings. Here is the Marlins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. CF Mason Williams
    LHP CC Sabathia

Another cloudy and cool day in the New York, but this time there is rain in the forecast. It’s not supposed to start until much later tonight though, so it shouldn’t interrupt the game unless they go to extra innings or something. Tonight’s series finale will begin just after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Rotation Update: Nathan Eovaldi will start Saturday and Masahiro Tanaka will start Sunday. The Yankees want to give Tanaka extra rest and Eovaldi is able to start on three days’ rest because he only threw 36 pitches in Tuesday’s disaster.

Injury Update: Teixeira has been nursing a stiff neck since the Orioles series, which is why he was unavailable last night. Apparently he’s well enough to start tonight … Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) continues to run the bases as part of his rehab.

Yankees losing a big bat during interleague play at a bad time for the offense

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Yesterday afternoon’s shutout loss to the Royals capped off a week in which the Yankees really struggled at the plate. After hitting five homers and scoring eleven runs on Monday, the Yankees scored just eleven runs in their next six games combined, with five of those runs coming Saturday. They were shut out yesterday for the first time all season.

This week, the Yankees will temporarily lose a big bat, and not to injury or anything like that. They’re set to play a quick little two-game series on the road against the Nationals, and NL rules mean no DH. Alex Rodriguez is hitting .250/.351/.563 (146 wRC+) on the year and Joe Girardi has already said A-Rod will be limited to DH duty going forward, which figures to put him on the bench in Washington.

“We haven’t talked about it. After Sunday there is an off day. I will have to see what we do there. I could depend on the next few days. Right now I haven’t thought about it,” said Joe Girardi to George King last week when asked about A-Rod’s status for the Washington series. Given the team’s newfound commitment to keeping Rodriguez off his feet so he can stay in the lineup, it’s tough to see how he’ll be a factor as anything other than a pinch-hitter these next two games.

Now, that said, Mark Teixeira fouled a pitch off his toe yesterday, and he eventually had to leave the game after trying to play through out. Thankfully x-rays came back negative, but Teixeira is still day-to-day, and it wouldn’t be a total surprise if the soreness lingers into tomorrow. A-Rod has already started one game at first base this year — it went awkwardly, like all things A-Rod — and starting him at first has to at least be a consideration if Teixeira can’t go. Right? Has to.

Girardi acknowledged Teixeira’s injury could lead the A-Rod playing against the Nationals — “It could,” said the skipper to King yesterday — but ultimately it doesn’t really matter who plays first base. Assuming the Yankees don’t suddenly reverse course and decide to play Alex at the ultra-demanding third base, they’ll be without A-Rod or Teixeira for the Washington series, and they’re basically the team’s two best hitters. Two best power hitters at the very least.

Teixeira has put up a .248/.366/.576 (149 wRC+) line on the season, and, if you had to pick between him or A-Rod for the Nats series, you’d have to pick Teixeira, right? They’re comparable hitters but Teixeira has the advantage of being a switch-hitter and an above-average defender at first. A-Rod’s two hip surgeries and recent hamstring issue figure to rule him out completely at third base, as it should. They can’t risk injury for two measly games. I love Alex, but Teixeira’s the more functional player right now by a considerable margin.

Girardi has a choice to make this week but not really. He’s going to lose a big bat during the series in Washington no matter what, and if Teixeira’s toe allows him to play first base, he has to play over A-Rod. I’m not sure I see a non-health reason to start Alex over Teixeira at this point. If Teixeira’s toe issue keeps him out of the lineup, then that’s a different story. I think the Yankees should run A-Rod out there at first over Garrett Jones in that case, even if it’s only for six or seven innings.

Either way, the Yankees are losing one of their very best hitters for the next two games, and that’s bad. The offense is having a real hard time scoring as it is. Remove A-Rod or Teixeira and suddenly the underperforming Brian McCann and Headley and Carlos Beltran have to carry even more of the load. The Yankees are catching a break by avoiding the Nationals’ top starters, but that doesn’t make me feel much better. The offense needs to break out of its funk, and they’ll have to do it the next two days without one of their top hitters.

Mark Teixeira: In the Zone

One of my favorite stat lines of the year is most definitely Mark Teixeira‘s. I love a good extra-base hit as much as you all do and those have defined Tex’s season to this point; to borrow a phrase from Mike, singles are for the weak and Tex has certainly bought into that philosophy. As I write this on Saturday morning, Tex’s line sits at .250/.359/.592, good for a .392 wOBA and a 150 wRC+. He has 30 total hits and all but 11 of them are for extra bases: 11 home runs and eight doubles. To one’s surprise, he has zero triples; Tex may look appear equine while running, but the speed doesn’t match the aesthetics. All that power has led to a .342 Iso which leads the Yankees and places him third in the majors behind Bryce Harper (.373!!) and Nelson Cruz (.372!!).

Speaking of leaderboards, all those extra-base hits combined with his 21 walks (14.5 BB%) and 20 strikeouts (13.8 K%) produce a super low BABIP of .207, good for the seventh lowest in all of baseball. The difference between Tex and the other BABIP-laggards, though, is production. All the rest of the top-10-lowest-BABIP hitters are below a 100 wRC+, though Luis Valbuena checks in at 99. The rest of the list consists of a bunch of high-50’s to mid-60’s wRC+ marks along with Chase Utley’s 7, which makes me very, very sad.

Regardless of what others are doing, Tex is off to a fairly hot start, which is the “what.” I’m more interested in the how. To find out how, I took a trip to Baseball Savant and looked up the differences in how pitchers have attacked Tex in 2014 and 2015. Like many things in baseball, Tex’s 2015 performance (again, through Friday’s games) depends on location.

In 2014, Tex saw a total of 2,082 pitches. 64% of those pitches were out of the zone, meaning 36% were inside the zone. Looking at some key results, we can see that Tex whiffed on 8.7% of his pitches last season, 67% in-zone whiffs, 33% out-of-zone whiffs. When I looked at 2015, I expected to find slightly different results in the whiff department, given that Tex’s overall strikeout percentage this year (13.8) is down from where it was last year (21.5). It turned out that in terms of in-zone and out-of-zone whiffs, Tex has performed exactly as he did last year. However, his overall whiffs are down by about two percentage points; he’s seen 536 total pitches as of Friday’s game, whiffing on 6.9% of the pitches he’s seen. Those changes aren’t too huge, but they do show improvement. Why’s that improvement coming? It has to do with the pitchers Tex is facing.

Of the 536 pitches Tex has seen this year, 61% have been outside the zone and the remaining 39% have been inside the zone, three points off from last year’s approach. For whatever reason, pitchers are challenging Tex inside the zone just a bit more in 2015. And aside from whiffing less overall, he’s doing more with pitches in the zone. Of his 30 hits, 67% have come inside the zone, compared to 64% last year. There’s been a similar uptick when it comes to home runs in the zone: 63% in 2015 compared to 60% last year.

All too often, we hear hitters say that they’re “not trying to do too much” at the plate; it’s a cliche that you can count on in post-game interviews (Stephen Drew said it last night on the radio, prompting my fiance to drop a cliche of her own: “If I had a dollar for every time a player said he wasn’t trying to do too much…”). But with Mark Teixeira this year, it seems to ring true. He’s seeing more pitches in the zone than last year and he’s being more productive with those in-zone pitches than he was last year. It’s not something that’s obviously noticeable like new swing mechanics or even a new approach; he’s simply taking what the pitchers are giving him and he’s raking. Let’s hope it keeps up.

Game 27: Big Mike and the Blue Jays

BIG MIKE IS HERE

The Yankees dropped a very winnable first game of this series with the Blue Jays last night, and it was one of those losses you could pin on anyone other than Chase Whitley. That’s baseball. You’re not gonna win them all.

Big Mike Pineda is on the mound tonight looking to get the Yankees back into the win column. They’ve won 13 of their last 17 but the bullpen could really use the night off. At least Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller could. This would be a good night for a blowout win. Here is Toronto’s lineup and here is New York’s 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. 2B Stephen Drew
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Chase Headley
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s cool and cloudy in Toronto this evening. I’m guessing the Rogers Centre roof will be closed, but that’s just a guess. Tonight’s game is set to begin at 7:07pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Roster Update: Jose Pirela (concussion) is with the Yankees and will be activated off the DL tomorrow. No word on the corresponding move but I assume it’ll be Petit. Makes sense.

Injury Update: Mark Teixeira is dealing with a minor lat issue, Joe Girardi told reporters. That’s why he didn’t use him as a defensive replacement last night; he wanted him to have the full day off. It’s a nagging issue but Teixeira is playing tonight.