Yankees place Mark Teixeira on 15-day DL with possible season-ending knee injury

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Earlier today the Yankees placed Mark Teixeira on the 15-day DL with a “right knee articular cartilage tear,” the team announced. He left last night’s game with discomfort in the knee and went for an MRI. Brian Cashman told Chad Jennings that Teixeira may need season-ending surgery. From Jennings:

“The initial effort is going to try to be to treat it conservatively with rest, probably involving injections, and then see how he responds to that,” general manager Brian Cashman said in a phone call this morning. “… If that doesn’t work, then you’re looking at a surgical procedure. If that’s the case, then his season is probably done.”

Surgery could end not only Teixeira’s season, but also his Yankees career. His eight-year contract is up after the season, and while the team will need a backup plan for Greg Bird at first base next year, they could very well go in another direction. For now it seems the Yankees will be without Teixeira for an extended period of time. This doesn’t figure to be a 15-day stint on the DL.

To replace Teixeira on the roster, the Yankees have called up Chris Parmelee — not Nick Swisher — from Triple-A Scranton. Simply put, the team believes Parmelee is better able to help them than Swisher right now. Parmelee has been the more productive hitter with the RailRiders (131 wRC+ vs. 72 wRC+), he’s seven years younger, he’s healthier, and better able to play the outfield if necessary.

Cashman told Jennings the plan is to mix-and-match at first base for the time being. It makes sense to start Parmelee, a left-handed hitter, against righties. Rob Refsnyder or Austin Romine could get the call against lefties. Refsnyder replaced Teixeira at first last night — it was his first game action at the position at any level — and was fine, though he wasn’t tested with many plays.

Teixeira has not hit at all this season. He owns a .180/.271/.263 (48 wRC+) batting line and hasn’t looked anywhere close to snapping out of his slump. It’s been nearly two full months since he last hit a home run. It’s very possible Parmelee and whoever else will give the team more production at first base than Teixeira has this season. They won’t replace his defense though. Teixeira is still all-world with the glove.

Dustin Ackley, who had season-ending shoulder surgery yesterday, was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Parmelee. He’ll be with the Yankees tonight.

Update: Mark Teixeira heading for MRI on right knee

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

8:50pm: Teixeira left the game with right knee discomfort, the Yankees announced. He’s heading for an MRI.

7:47pm: Mark Teixeira left tonight’s game with what looked to be a right knee injury. Nothing obvious happened on the field, but YES showed Teixeira grabbing his knee and talking to the trainer in the dugout during the third inning. The Yankees haven’t announced any sort of update yet.

The Yankees are already without Dustin Ackley (shoulder) and Greg Bird (shoulder), so their first base depth chart is mighty thin. Austin Romine is the backup first baseman by default right now, but with Brian McCann banged up, the team needs him behind the plate. Rob Refsnyder has been working out at first and he replaced Teixeira in the game.

Teixeira has not hit this season at all — he came into this game hitting .181/.273/.265 (49 wRC+) overall, and it’s been nearly two months since his last homer — so the Yankees aren’t going to miss his bat. They will miss his defense though. Teixeira is still a high-end defender at first base. Among the best in baseball. We see it game after game.

The Yankees have Nick Swisher and Chris Parmelee at Triple-A, and while Parmelee is out-hitting Swisher by a decent margin, my guess is the team would go with Swisher should Teixeira miss an extended period of time. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. A healthy and productive Teixeira is the best thing for the Yankees.

Batting average isn’t everything, but the lack of it is really hurting the Yankees

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Last night, in the series opening loss to the Blue Jays, the Yankees were held to two runs or fewer for the 21st time in 50 games this season. No AL team has more games with no more than two runs in 2016. The Yankees were also held to five hits or fewer for the 11th time in 50 games. That’s the third most in the league.

It’s no surprise then that the Yankees came into Tuesday with the second fewest runs scored (192) and the second lowest runs per game average (3.84) in the AL. Only the lowly Twins (187 and 3.74) are worse. The offense has been a big problem overall this season, and, not coincidentally, their team batting average (.233) is the lowest it’s been through 50 games since 1969, as noted by our Katie Sharp. Check out last night’s lineup:

Yankees batting averages

Three players in the starting lineup were hitting over .250 and five of the nine were hitting below .230. That’s almost the regular lineup too. Aaron Hicks was starting in place of Alex Rodriguez, and, sadly, Hicks’ .198 average is an upgrade over A-Rod‘s .170 average. Otherwise that’s the starting lineup. That’s pretty close to what Joe Girardi would send out there in a winner take all wildcard game tomorrow.

Obviously batting average is not the only — or best — way to evaluate offense. Walks and hitting for power matter too. Batting average is not nothing though. We’ve reached the point where batting average has become underrated. The best thing a hitter can do at the plate is not make an out, and hits are always better than walks. Always always always. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Walks should supplement hits, not replace them.

The Yankees as a team really stink at hitting for average. Look at that lineup and tell me how many players have a lower batting average than what you’d reasonably expect coming into the season. Brett Gardner? Sure. He’s not a true talent .217 hitter. He hit .259 last year and .265 in over 3,000 plate appearances since becoming a regular in 2010. Mark Teixeira doesn’t really hit for average anymore but .195 is low even for him.

That’s probably it, right? You could argue Starlin Castro is better than a .250 hitter, though he did hit .265 in over over 1,800 plate appearances from 2013-15, and a 15-point swing in either direction is still within the range of “that’s baseball.” I guess you could argue Chase Headley is better than a .229 hitter too, but eh. That might be pushing it even as good as he’s been in May (.284/.348/.425) and after hitting .259 last year.

Point is, that is close to the normal for the offense in terms of batting average. Gardner and Teixeira (and A-Rod) are underperforming expectations that’s really it. Everyone else is pretty much where you’d expect them to be. Combine the lack of batting average with the lack of power — nine homers combined for Teixeira and Rodriguez through 50 games, woof — and you get, well, one of the worst offenses in the league.

It is harder right now to get a base hit than it has been at any point since the mound was lowered in 1969. I’m talking around the league, not just the Yankees. The MLB batting average is .252 right now. It was .262 when the Yankees won the World Series in 2009. A ten-point drop league-wide in seven years is huge! Go back ten years to 2006 and the league batting average was .269. There’s roughly 165,000 at-bats in MLB each season. The difference between a .269 average and a .252 average is over 2,800 hits. That’s crazy.

All sorts of things are contributing to the decline in offense and batting average. The infield shift is an obvious reason, but it’s not the only reason. More specialized relievers, the expanding strike zone, super detailed scouting reports, the increase in velocity — the MLB average fastball velocity is 92.3 mph this year, up from 90.9 mph in 2008, the first full year of PitchFX — all of that stuff has led to the decline in batting average.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Since the start of last season the Yankees have been, by far, the most shifted team in baseball. They’ve had 1,792 at-bats with the shift on since the start of last year. The Mariners are a distant second at 1,402 such at-bats. The shift has definitely played a role in the team’s inability to hit for average. Teixeira and Brian McCann are the most obvious victims, but shift-able switch-hitters like Headley and Carlos Beltran have been hurt too.

I’ve come to realize shifts are like strikeouts. You can have one guy in your lineup who will strike out 180+ times a year, maybe two if you really want to push it, but any more than that is a major problem. Same with the shift. One or maybe two shift-able hitters is fine. But five or six like the Yankees have at times? Nope. It doesn’t work. It’s too difficult to sustain rallies that way. We’ve seen too many rallies die on grounders hit to shallow right field the last few seasons.

The Yankees are — and have been for a few years now — one of the better contact teams in baseball, believe it or not. Their team 19.4% strikeout rate is sixth lowest in baseball. It was 19.1% from 2014-15, fifth lowest in baseball. There’s good contact and bad contact though, and the fact that they have the eight highest ground ball rate (47.7%) and 11th highest soft contact rate (19.8%) this year is bad news. Their MLB low .265 BABIP isn’t an accident. Weak grounders tend to go for outs, especially when you lack team speed like the Yankees.

There’s also this: the Yankees are old. Old hitters lose bat speed, which is why Beltran and Teixeira and A-Rod are no longer the hitters they once were. Even players in their early 30s like Gardner and Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury begin to slip. The team’s two under-30 regulars are Castro and Didi Gregorius, and let’s face it, they’re flawed hitters. They both tend to swing at everything. Aside from Gardner and Teixeira (and A-Rod) getting out of their slumps, there’s not much reason to expect the Yankees to post a higher batting average going forward.

The Yankees have focused on acquiring left-handed hitters who can take advantage of the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium and that intuitively makes sense. It doesn’t seem to have worked all that well, however. Going forward, in terms of overall team building, the best approach may be to focus on hitters with the skills to hit for average, then let any power boost from the ballpark come naturally.

Forget about hitting .300 for the second. Among players with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, the Yankees haven’t had a .285 hitter since Robinson Cano in 2013. The last regular other than Cano and Derek Jeter to hit .285+ for the Yankees was Nick Swisher in 2010 (.288). Batting average isn’t the only thing that matters. We know that. It also can’t be ignored either. The 2016 Yankees couldn’t make it any more obvious.

Game 49: Rubber Game

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

By my quick count, the Yankees have played 12 three-game series this season, and even with that recent 13-7 stretch, they’ve won only four of those 12 series. Yikes. Today’s rubber game with the Rays is a chance for series win No. 5, and also a chance to get back within a game of .500. Baby steps, I guess. Getting a little tired of writing that. Anyway, here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. DH Alex Rodriguez
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. RF Aaron Hicks
  8. 1B Dustin Ackley
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Another hot and humid day in St. Pete, and there’s some rain in the forecast too. The dome will come in handy this afternoon. Today’s series finale will begin at 1:10pm ET and you can watch on WPIX locally and MLB Network nationally. Yep, another WPIX game. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Carlos Beltran left yesterday’s game with a stiff back and is available today. Joe Girardi said before the series he wasn’t going to play Beltran on the turf all three games anyway … Mark Teixeira (neck) feels much better and will take batting practice today with an eye on playing tomorrow.

Looking Ahead

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

There comes a day when you rectify the team you are with the team you want to be; the Yankees can’t seem to make the two things coexist.

On the good side of things, the Yankees lead the American League in both strikeout percentage and walk rate from the mound. They’ve also got a respectable 91 FIP- and a 100 ERA-, suggesting their pitching may still have some room to grow. On the bad side of things, the Yankees have scored the second fewest runs in the AL, just eight more than the lowly Twins. Their 88 wRC+ is also the second worst in the Junior Circuit, just two points ahead of the trailing Twins.

(Stephen Lam/Getty)
(Stephen Lam/Getty)

As Memorial Day is generally the first ‘mile marker’ of the year, today’s as good a time as any to look at the road ahead by reflecting on the road behind. One way of doing that is heading over to FanGraphs and checking out the playoff odds section, which lets you sort by a few things. In the spirit of looking back, here are the Yankees’ playoff odds based on their season to date stats. A 3.9% chance to win the division. An 8.7% chance to win the wild card. Those don’t look good, obviously, thanks to the poor performances the Yankees have turned in at the plate. Bounce backs from Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez would help those numbers creep up, but they’re still fairly low.

If we decide to be more fair to the team and acknowledge the uncharacteristically bad performance at the plate, we can go peek at the playoff odds using rest of season projections instead. Those numbers look a little better–4.5% for the division and 16.4% for the wild card–but they still aren’t anything spectacular.

Their deficits in both the AL East and wild card standings–5.5 and 4.5 games respectively–are not insurmountable, especially considering it’s not quite yet June. But in the AL East, the Yankees have three teams to brush aside, including the first place Red Sox. In the wild card, it’s six teams, including the leading Orioles and Rangers. Allowing for some dramatics, the day of reckoning is fast approaching for the Yankees.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

At some point soon–maybe by mid-June–they need to make a decision, and an honest one at that. This is something the Yankees have struggled with in recent years, but hopefully it’s something they put some earnest reflection into over the next few weeks. Their playoff odds are bad. The team is flawed in multiple ways. Fighting or a five hundred record or to be ‘in it’ in the last week of the season with some vague, outside, puncher’s chance at the second wild card is not worth it. There are still enough valid pieces on this team that can contribute to next year which can be properly bolstered by jettisoning the right assets.

A smart man who used to comment ’round these parts used to say that the Yankees are a win now and win later team and the Yankees need to focus on the latter at this point in the season. Trade some of the present for some of the future and be honest about it with the fans. Trusting that the fans can handle an honest to goodness rebuild is something the Yankee brass has been reluctant to do, but there’s no better time to start than now. It’s not likely this team is going anywhere in 2016 and preparing for 2017 is the responsible thing to do.

Game 47: On The Road Again

Can't sleep, mascot will eat me. (Presswire)
Can’t sleep, mascot will eat me. (Presswire)

The Yankees just got done with a long road trip, didn’t they? They played seven games on the West Coast, played three games at home, and now they’re back out on the road for another ten-game trip. Lame. At least they’re in Tampa this weekend. That’s kinda like home.

Anyway, the Yankees have dropped their last two games and that’s annoying. They were playing well for a good three weeks there before falling short against the Blue Jays. The Rays have lost five of their last six games, so it seems the Yankees are catching them at the right time. Hopefully it translates to a win. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. DH Alex Rodriguez
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Dustin Ackley
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It is hot and humid in St. Petersburg and a cool 72 degrees or so inside Tropicana Field. Isn’t air conditioning the best? Tonight’s game will begin at 7:10pm ET and you can watch on WPIX. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Mark Teixeira (neck) is aiming to return to the lineup Sunday. Joe Girardi said he’s looking at Monday. The manager usually wins these battles.

Game 46: A-Rod Returns

(Brian Bahr/Getty)
(Brian Bahr/Getty)

After three weeks on the shelf with a hamstring injury, Alex Rodriguez is back in the lineup this afternoon. I wouldn’t say the Yankees have missed him — they went 13-7 during his absence and both Carlos Beltran and Aaron Hicks hit well — but it’s good to have A-Rod back nonetheless. He hit three homers in the six games before the injury and he went deep in a rehab game last night. Hopefully Alex picks up where he left off.

As for the Yankees, their six-game winning streak came to an end last night, but that was bound to happen at some point. The important thing is that it doesn’t snowball into a losing streak. The Yankees start a ten-game, four-city road trip tomorrow, so a win today to close out the homestand and clinch the series would be pretty great. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. RF Carlos Beltran
  5. DH Alex Rodriguez
  6. C Brian McCann
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 1B Austin Romine
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s a very nice day in New York. Warm and sunny with no clouds in the sky. Pretty great weather for a ballgame. This afternoon’s game will start at 4:05pm ET for some reason. You can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Chasen Shreve has been placed on the 15-day DL with a shoulder problem. That’s not good. He’s currently being evaluated He’s been diagnosed with an AC joint sprain. Shreve received a cortisone shot and will not pick up a baseball for seven days … Mark Teixeira (neck) received a cortisone shot and will miss three more games. Yesterday’s MRI did not show anything different from the MRI he took last month.

Roster Moves: The Yankees called up lefty Richard Bleier to replace Shreve in the bullpen. Shreve was placed on the DL and Rob Refsnyder was sent to Triple-A Scranton to clear 25-man roster spots for A-Rod and Bleier. The team has not yet announced a 40-man roster move to accommodate Bleier.