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.

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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.

Game 20: A Chance To Take Over First Place

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

First place is on the line tonight! Well, not really. It’s only April 27th. But still, the Yankees and Rays are currently tied atop the AL East with identical 11-8 records, so the winner of tonight’s game will have sole possession of first place. The Yankees have not held sole possession of the top spot in the AL East since May 18th of last season, and even that was only a half-game lead. The last time they led by at least one full game was May 13th, 143 regular season games ago.

The Bombers swept the Rays in Tampa Bay last weekend and now the two teams are set to play in the Bronx. Fun fact: tonight will be the Rays’ first outdoor game of the season. They’ve played their 19 games this year in Tropicana Field, Rogers Centre, and Marlins Park, which all have some sort of roof. Man, baseball indoors is drab. I’ll happily trade a few rainouts each year for stadium with no roof. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

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

It’s a nice night for baseball in New York. A little cool and windy but nothing crazy. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Awards!: Mark Teixeira was named the AL Player of the Week, MLB announced. He went 8-for-24 (.333) with five homers, four walks, and three strikeouts in seven games last week.

Yankees finalize Opening Day roster with latest round of roster moves

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

3:25pm: The Yankees have officially announced their Opening Day roster. It is exactly as presented below. No surprises.

10:00am: The Opening Day roster has been slowly coming together over the last several weeks, and yesterday afternoon the Yankees made the roster all but official with their latest round of moves, including Austin Romine being designated for assignment. Here is the 25-man roster the Yankees will take into the regular season tomorrow:

CATCHERS (2)
Brian McCann
John Ryan Murphy

INFIELDERS (7)
Stephen Drew
Didi Gregorius
Chase Headley
Garrett Jones
Gregorio Petit
Alex Rodriguez
Mark Teixeira

OUTFIELDERS (4)
Carlos Beltran
Brett Gardner
Jacoby Ellsbury
Chris Young

STARTERS (5)
Nathan Eovaldi
Michael Pineda
CC Sabathia
Masahiro Tanaka
Adam Warren

RELIEVERS (7)
Dellin Betances
David Carpenter
Chris Martin
Andrew Miller
Esmil Rogers
Chasen Shreve
Justin Wilson

DISABLED LIST (4)
Chris Capuano (quad) — retroactive to March 27th
Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) — retroactive to March 27th
Jose Pirela (concussion) — retroactive to April 2nd
Brendan Ryan (calf) — retroactive to April 1st

Pirela was placed on the 7-day concussion DL while Capuano, Nova, and Ryan were all placed on the regular old 15-day DL. Petit takes Romine’s spot on the 40-man roster, which is full. The Yankees can transfer Nova to the 60-day DL whenever they need another 40-man spot since he’s not expected to return until June. Romine, Petit, and the DL assignments were the moves announced yesterday.

Despite those injuries, the Yankees made it through Spring Training as the healthiest team in the AL East, just as we all expected. The rest of the roster is pretty straight forward. Warren was named the fifth starter a few days ago and it was clear Shreve and Martin were going to make the Opening Day roster once Chase Whitley was optioned to Triple-A. Joe Girardi is planning to use Betances and Miller as co-closers to start the season, which is pretty cool. Hopefully it works as planned. Carpenter and Wilson figure to be the sixth and seventh inning guys.

As always, the 25-man roster is going to change throughout the course of the season. Quite a bit too. Petit figures to be replaced by Pirela or Ryan, whoever gets healthy first, and those bullpen spots belonging to Shreve and Martin could be revolving doors given the team’s relief pitcher depth. That includes Capuano, who could wind up working in relief if Warren fares well as the fifth starter. For now, this is the group of Yankees to start the new season.

The Summer of A-Rod: Looking At Upcoming Milestones [2015 Season Preview]

As Yankees fans, we’ve been fortunate to see a lot of historic moments over the years. Derek Jeter seemed to pass someone on some all-time list every other game last season. Mariano Rivera rewrote the record book for closers and others like Roger Clemens and Ichiro Suzuki had historic moments while passing through the Bronx.

The 2015 season is shaping up to be a good but not great milestone season for the Yankees. Some players will hit a few nice round numbers but we’re not going to see anything like we did with Jeter and Mariano the last few seasons. Well, that’s not true. The Yankees do have one all-time great close to reaching not one, but three historic milestones. The problem is everyone hates the guy.

As we get closer to wrapping up our season preview series, let’s look at some notable upcoming milestones. We’re only going to focus on the major, somewhat historical milestones though. No one really cares Andrew Miller is ten strikeouts away from 500 for his career, right? Right. Let’s get to it.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Summer of A-Rod

3,000th hit: 61 away
2,000th RBI: 31 away
660th home run: six away

Now that his suspension is over, Alex Rodriguez is able to continue his pursuit of some seriously historic milestones. With good health, he can become the 29th player in history with 3,000 hits and only the fourth ever with 2,000 RBI this season. He can also tie Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time homer list, triggering the first of his five $6M bonuses. Needless to say, the health part is far from guaranteed. Alex wasn’t particularly durable in the years immediately prior to the suspension, remember.

Here’s the coolest part: A-Rod could reach all three milestones on the same swing. It’s extremely unlikely to happen, but the math suggests it’s possible. One swing … bam. He gets his 3,000th hit, 2,000th RBI, and 660th homer all at once. It would be amazing. Jeter and Wade Boggs are the only players to go deep for their 3,000th hit, which is kinda funny since neither was a home run hitter, and it’s been almost a half-century since a player reached the 2,000th RBI plateau. Hank Aaron was the last to do it in 1972. (Babe Ruth and Cap Anson are the other members of the 2,000 RBI club.)

Should A-Rod reach the three milestones at some point this year, all on one swing or otherwise, I don’t think they’ll come with the usual celebration from fans and the Yankees. Announcers will mention it and writers will write about it, but I don’t think we’ll sit through some kind of massive chase like when Jeter was going after his 3,000th hit. That got non-stop, wall-to-wall coverage. That’s fine. Alex made his own bed and he has to sleep in it. I’m still rooting like hell for him though.

CC Sabathia

3,000th inning: 178.2 away
2,500th strikeout: 63 away

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Once upon a time, we would laugh at the idea of Sabathia throwing “only” 178.2 innings in a season. This is a guy who averaged 215 innings a year from 2001-11, which is bonkers. But, between last year’s knee surgery and his natural age-related decline, getting to 178.2 innings is hardly a guarantee for Sabathia. Should he get there, he’d be the 135th pitcher in history to reach 3,000 innings and only the 32nd lefty to do so.

Getting to 2,500 strikeouts is a much bigger deal, historically. Sixty-three more punch outs would move Sabathia into 31st place all-time and make him only the ninth lefty in history with 2,500 strikeouts. That’s not a “stop the game so his teammates can run on the field to congratulate him” type of milestone, but it’s still pretty cool. That kind of longevity and effectiveness is quite an accomplishment.

Carlos Beltran & Mark Teixeira

400th home run: Beltran is 27 away, Teixeira is 37 away

Both of these seem pretty unlikely, though I suppose they aren’t completely impossible. Four hundred dingers is a nice round number and one heck of an accomplishment, but remember, these two are switch-hitters. Only three switch-hitters in history have hit 400+ dingers: Mickey Mantle (536), Eddie Murray (504), and Chipper Jones (468). Beltran is fourth all-time in homers by a switch-hitter and Teixeira is sixth. (Lance Berkman is fifth with 366.) If they don’t get to 400 this year, hopefully both do it before their contracts expire following next season.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Joe Girardi

1,272nd game managed with Yankees: 138 away
1,340th game managed overall: 44 away

When the Yankees play the Orioles at home on September 9th, Girardi will manage his 1,272nd game with the Yankees, jumping over Ralph Houk and into fifth place on the team’s all-time games managed list. Fifth place! It feels like Girardi was just hired yesterday, doesn’t it? My goodness. He has a long way to go before moving into fourth place — Miller Huggins managed 1,796 games in pinstripes — so after Girardi passes Houk, he’ll sit in fifth place for a few years.

If you’re wondering about wins, Girardi has managed 648 of those with the Yankees, the fifth most in franchise history. Huggins is fourth with 1,067 wins. So yeah, it’ll be a while before Girardi moves up a spot on that list. The Yankees have missed the postseason the last two years and could very well miss the playoffs again this year, though I don’t think Girardi is in danger of being fired. Hal Steinbrenner seems to like him very much and that’s the guy you want in your corner. Besides, I don’t see any reason why Girardi should be on the hot seat. If anything he’s helped prop the team up higher than their true talent level the last two years.

Anyway, Girardi will manage his 1,340th career game overall on May 24th, at home against the Rangers, which will move him into the top 100 on the all-time games managed list. Baseball-Reference says 686 men have managed at least one game in the show — I would have guessed more, though that doesn’t include bench coaches who took over in a particular game after the manager was ejected — and Girardi is close to joining the top 100 in games managed just a few months after his 50th birthday. That’s impressive. Joe’s still got a lot of managing left ahead of him.