Yankeemetrics: Stay classy, San Diego [July 1-3]

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Not enough in the ninth
The Yankees late-game magic disappeared on Friday night as their wild ninth-inning rally fell just short in a 7-6 loss to the Padres. Down 7-2 entering the final frame, they scored four runs and got the tying run on third base before Brett Gardner grounded out to end the game.

It was just the second time in his career that Gardner has made the final out of the game with his team trailing by a run and a man on third base; he also did it in a 2-1 loss to the Royals on June 8, 2014.

Nathan Eovaldi‘s June swoon continued into the month of July with the inconsistent right-hander getting tagged for six runs on seven hits, including two homers. Over his last six starts he’s allowed a whopping 31 runs, 45 hits and 12 home runs allowed in 30 1/3 innings (and a bloated 9.20 ERA).

In this stretch he’s allowed at least four earned runs and a homer in each of those six starts, the longest such streak in franchise history. Eovaldi has now surrendered 19 longballs in 91 innings this season, a rate of 1.88 homers per nine innings would be the highest by any Yankee that qualified for the ERA title.

One of Eovaldi’s biggest bugaboos during his free fall over the past month has been a flat and ineffective splitter, a pitch that batters are hitting .311 and slugging .556 against since June 1; opponents were just 6-for-40 (.150) with no extra-base hits in at-bats ending in his splitter in May.

A significant reduction in both the horizontal and vertical movement of the pitch — he’s getting an inch less of arm-side run and it’s also dropping an inch less in June/July compared to May — has made his signature splitter way too hittable over his last several outings.

Miller’s mistake
Just a couple days removed from back-to-back thrilling last at-bat wins at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees were on the wrong side of a walk-off celebration on Saturday night in San Diego. Melvin Upton Jr. hit a solo homer on the first pitch he saw from Andrew Miller in the bottom of the ninth inning to hand the Yankees their second straight loss on the west coast.

It was the fourth time they’ve lost an Interleague game on a game-ending longball: the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman has beaten them twice (May 19, 2015 and June 18, 2006) and Todd Zeile also hit a walk-off home run against the Yankees in Denver on June 20, 2002.

The loss clinched a losing first-half record for the Yankees for only the second time in the last 20 seasons. The 2007 team was 40-41 at the halfway mark and then rebounded to win two-thirds of their games the rest of the way and clinch a Wild Card berth. That’s the only time in franchise history they managed to make the playoffs after having a sub-.500 record through 81 games.

Thanks to a dormant offense and a rare hiccup by Miller, the Yankees wasted a solid performance from the struggling Ivan Nova. The righty had posted a 6.92 ERA in his previous seven starts entering Saturday night, but rebounded to allow just one run on four hits in 5 1/3 innings in San Diego.

Nova’s curve was a key weapon for him in finishing off the Padres hitters, who whiffed on six of their eight swings against the curve and went 0-for-6 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending in the pitch.

(AP)
(AP)

Milestone Tex Message
The Yankees averted what would have been a historically awful sweep, winning the third game of the three-game series in San Diego. Since Interleague play began in 1997, the Yankees have only been swept in series of three or more games twice: June 19-21, 2007 by the Rockies and Sept 1-3, 1997 by the Phillies.

Even with the win the Yankees have some ground to make up in order to avoid their worst ever Interleague mark. They are now 3-7 (.300) halfway through the schedule; their lowest Interleague win percentage in a season is .333, when they went 5-10 in 1997.

Didi Gregorius‘ scorching hot bat gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning en route to the 6-3 victory. Each of the past four homers that he’s hit since June 16 have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead. In that span, no other Yankee has hit more than two go-ahead/game-tying home runs.

Mark Teixeira gave the Yankees an insurance run in the eight inning with a milestone Tex message – the 400th longball of his career – and then added No. 401 in the next frame.

He is the fifth switch-hitter in the 400-homer club (Chipper Jones, Eddie Murray, Mickey Mantle, Carlos Beltran), and the 55th player in MLB history to hit that many homers. He’s also the ninth player to reach the milestone in Yankee pinstripes. The rest of the group are Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Gary Sheffield, A-Rod, Alfonso Soriano, and, of course, Beltran.

Overall, of the 55 players to hit 400 homers, Teixeira is the 27th to do in his 14th season or earlier; but the only other switch-hitter to join the club this early into his career was Mickey Mantle. Among first baseman, he is one of just nine to compile 400 homers in their first 14 seasons: Carlos Delgado, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Jeff Bagwell, Albert Pujols and Mark McGwire are the others.

Game 77: Avoiding No. 40

(Getty)
(Getty)

Every once in a while I go back and compare teams to the 1998 Yankees, who were so obscenely good it doesn’t seem real even though I watched them with my own eyes. That team went 114-48, and they suffered their 40th loss in Game 140. I’m not joking. They were 100-39 at one point. The Red Sox went 92-70 in 1998 and finished 22 games behind the Yankees. Ridiculous.

Anyway, tonight the 2016 Yankees are trying to avoid their 40th loss of the season. In Game 77. This 2016 team is a wee bit off the pace from that 1998 squad, huh? Heck, even the 2013 Yankees didn’t suffer their 40th loss until Game 88. Can the 2016 Yankees delay that inevitable 40th loss another day? Maybe! Here is the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

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

Much nicer weather today than the last few days. The sun is out and the chance of rain is down around 5%. There should be no problem getting the game in tonight. This evening’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Carlos Beltran (hamstring) is still sore and remains day-to-day. Joe Girardi said it is “worrisome” he’s still feeling it. This is fine. … Mark Teixeira has some soreness in his knee, which is why he’s out of the lineup.

Benching A-Rod against righties is a good start, but there are other lineup changes worth making

But that's not any of Al's business. (Presswire)
But that’s none of Al’s business. (Presswire)

Later today, Alex Rodriguez will return to the lineup after spending the last two days on the bench. He wasn’t hurt. The Yankees are looking for ways to improve the offense and sitting Alex against right-handers is the solution they came up with. With lefty Cole Hamels on the mound tonight, A-Rod will be back in there.

“It’s a hard decision. Alex has meant a lot to this club over the years, but right now we’re gonna do something a little bit different and see how it works,” said Joe Girardi to Howie Kussoy yesterday. “It’s been tough for him against right-handers. That’s why we’re looking at this … You perform, that’s the bottom line. We’re in the business of performing. Things change. Nothing is set in stone.”

Rodriguez certainly has struggled against righties this year. The demotion is not undeserved. He’s hit .200/.236/.348 (50 wRC+) with a 31.7% strikeout rate against them so far, and his at-bats have looked pretty bad. A-Rod can’t seem to lay off sliders away and is getting chewed up by good fastballs. Removing him from the lineup against righties is necessary and smart.

That’s not the only lineup change the Yankees can and should make, however. Everyone involved keeps saying they’re trying to contend — “We can’t keep treading water. I want to be a contender, not a pretender,” said Brian Cashman to Josh Thomson yesterday — yet they can’t maintain the status quo and expect different results. It’s almost July. Here are some other changes the Yankees should make.

Give Teixeira’s Knee A Break

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Even with Mark Teixeira going deep the last two days, my guess is Rob Refsnyder will be at first base against Hamels tonight. Not only is there the left-right thing, but the Yankees had a very long night last night, and Teixeira also just played three straight games after coming off the DL with a knee problem. Girardi said they plan to give Teixeira a little more rest just to make sure the knee doesn’t flare up again. Makes sense, right? Right.

The Yankees have to do something to get Refsnyder at-bats and Teixeira’s knee is going to need regular rest, so this works well. Maybe something like three games on and one day off for Teixeira? Or two games on, one game at DH, and one day off? That will be difficult if these homers the last two days are a sign Teixeira is snapping out of his season long funk, but the Yankees can deal with that when the time comes. The point is to get Refsnyder some more at-bats. The kid has to play.

Drop Castro In The Lineup

There are 168 players qualified for the batting title as of this morning. Starlin Castro ranks 156th with a .285 OBP. That is terrible. I know he’s hit some big dingers and has generally been better than Stephen Drew, but man, his at-bats are consistently the worst on the team. He hacks at everything. Execute a slider off the plate in a two-strike count and Starlin will go fishing, no doubt about it.

Castro’s hot start and consistent dinger production — not to mention his age and contract — has bought him a long leash in a fairly premium lineup spot. He’s been hitting fifth or sixth for a while now. That has continued even though others, specifically Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley, have out-hit Castro for weeks now. Here are some numbers since May 1st, a totally arbitrary date I picked because it’s the start of a month:

PA AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ 2B HR BB% K%
Castro 209 .231/.260/.372 64 7 7 3.3% 19.1%
Gregorius 193 .311/.344/.443 110 10 4 4.1% 8.3%
Headley 183 .279/.344/.412 104 8 4 8.2% 21.9%

So yeah, Gregorius and Headley have been way more productive players for close to two months now. Benching Castro won’t (and shouldn’t) happen — he’s still only 26 and at least has a chance to be a building block player going forward — but dropping him in the lineup shouldn’t be off the table. Moving him behind Gregorius and Headley would be totally justifiable given their recent production.

Give Gardner & Ellsbury More Rest

Remember the plan to rest the regulars more often? The Yankees talked about it all offseason and in Spring Training. It hasn’t happened though. The team got off to a slow start, so Girardi kept running his regulars out there in an effort to get things turned around. As a result, Brett Gardner has started 64 of 75 games while Jacoby Ellsbury has started 61. That’s more than I think the Yankees originally planned.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Gardner and Ellsbury have slowed down of late. Gardner is hitting .273/.340/.295 (75 wRC+) over the last two weeks and Ellsbury is at .222/.255/.244 (32 wRC+). I don’t know if giving them one extra day on the bench a week while help things, but that was the plan coming into the season, right? That plan shouldn’t be abandoned, especially with the offense being so hit and (mostly) miss. It’s time to try something different.

I know most folks are done with Aaron Hicks but I’m nowhere near ready to give up on him. Clamoring for the Yankees to sell and wanting to move on from Hicks are conflicting ideas. I say give Gardner and Ellsbury that extra day of rest per week and stick Hicks in the lineup in their place. The two veterans get more rest and hopefully stay productive while Hicks gets some at-bats.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Bonus Non-Lineup Suggestion: Get Nova Out Of The Rotation

Ivan Nova stepped into the rotation a few weeks back and strung together three very good starts. The rotation was a total mess at the time and Nova did a really nice job calming things down. Props. Lately though, Ivan has been a mess, and following last night’s dud he owns a 5.32 ERA (5.07 FIP) on the season. That can’t continue. Chad Green has a 1.54 ERA (2.25 FIP) in 81.2 Triple-A innings and lines up to take Nova’s spot perfectly. The Yankees have plenty of dead weight in the bullpen they can cast aside, so put Nova back into a long relief role and give Green a chance to show what he can do.

* * *

Are the Yankees doing all they can right now to give themselves the best chance to win? I don’t think so, not if Refsnyder is sitting on the bench for three days at a time and Nova is taking a regular rotation turn. Benching A-Rod is a good move that figures to improve the offense. There’s more than can be done though, and the sooner the Yankees start making other changes, the better off they’ll be. Sitting A-Rod should be step one, not the only step.

Game 73: Teixeira Returns

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Exactly three weeks ago, Mark Teixeira was placed on the 15-day DL with torn cartilage in his right knee. There was talk he would need season-ending surgery. Instead, Teixeira returns to the lineup today after “rehabbing” the knee. I say “rehabbing” because torn cartilage won’t repair itself. (I’m no doctor. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.) He’s going to need surgery at some point. Teixeira is receiving treatment and lubrication injections to make the injury manageable for the time being.

If nothing else, Teixeira’s return will instantly improve the team defense. He’s still an all-world defender at first base. Will he help the offense? That’s another matter. Teixeira was hitting only .180/.271/.263 (47 wRC+) at the time of the injury, and he hadn’t homered in nearly two full months. He had a fantastic season a year ago, so it’s not like you have to look back real far to see the last time he was a productive player. Hopefully the little break gets his bat on track. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

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

It’s a lovely day in New York. Sunny, not many clouds, and temperatures in the low-80s. Good afternoon to spend at the ol’ ballyard. Today’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on WPIX locally and MLB Network if you’re out of market. Enjoy the game.

Roster Update: Ike Davis was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for Teixeira, the Yankees announced. He can elected free agency if he clears waivers because he has more than five years of service time. Do any other teams offer a greater opportunity though? Teixeira is playing with torn cartilage, so it wouldn’t take much for Davis to return to the big leagues. He might stick around.

Game 69: Trying for a Father’s Day sweep

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have played four four-game series this season and they’ve won all four. They’ve swept two of them (Athletics, Angels) and have a chance to sweep a third this afternoon against the Twins. Not coincidentally, the A’s, Angels, and Twins have the three worst records in the AL. The Yankees sure do know how to beat up on bad teams.

On the mound this afternoon is Nathan Eovaldi, who is currently in a Mr. Hyde phase of his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act. He’s allowed at least five runs in each of this last three starts after allowing seven runs total in his previous five starts. It sure would be nice if the Twins propelled Eovaldi into another stretch of dominance. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

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

The internet tells me the weather is very nice in Minneapolis today. Sunny with temperatures in the low-90s. This afternoon’s series finale will begin a little after 2pm ET. You can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Mark Teixeira (knee) continues to run and take batting practice. The plan is to have him play three rehab games with Triple-A Scranton from Tuesday through Thursday this week, then rejoin the Yankees next Saturday.

Roster Move: Chase Shreve (shoulder) has been activated off the 15-day DL and optioned to Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. I thought Shreve would rejoin the bullpen as soon as he was ready. He needs to go to Triple-A though. He’s been wretched the last few weeks.

Game 68: A big start for Big Mike

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

Overall, this has been a pretty crummy season for Michael Pineda. He comes into Saturday’s game with a 5.88 ERA on the season, but only three starts ago he had a 6.92 ERA. Pineda has pitched well the last three times out after some mechanical tinkering at the behest of pitching Larry Rothschild.

Regardless of whether you’re all-in on this season and think the Yankees can contend, or think they’re screwed and need to sell, you want Pineda to do well. Pitching well will help the team get back into contention and it’ll also help raise his trade value, which was pretty much zero a few weeks ago. Anyway, here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 2B Rob Refsnyder
  9. 1B Ike Davis
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s warm and a bit cloudy in the Twins Cities, and there’s a slight chance of rain pretty much all day. It doesn’t look like anything that will cause a delay or a postponement, however. First pitch is scheduled for 2:10pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Mark Teixeira (knee) is progressing quite well. He’s been taking batting practice and he was able to do some running yesterday. He’ll run the bases today. Sounds like Teixeira might be able to begin a minor league rehab assignment Tuesday.

Saturday Links: Miller, Beltran, Teixeira, YES, Jeter

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Twins continue their four-game series later this afternoon. Here are some links to help you pass the time until first pitch.

Yankees want “sure things” for Miller

From the “no duh” rumor mill: the Yankees are seeking “sure things” in return in any Andrew Miller trade, reports Jon Heyman. I guess that means they want MLB ready young talent, not prospects who are a year or two away from the big leagues. Makes sense, right? No need to settle for lottery tickets when you’re dealing a player of Miller’s caliber. Either get players who can help you right now or keep the reasonably priced elite reliever who is under contract two more years. The Yankees don’t have to move Miller, after all. If someone wants him, it’ll cost them.

Yankees, Beltran have not talked new contract

Another one from the “no duh” rumor mill: the Yankees and impending free agent Carlos Beltran have not yet had any talks about a new contract, so says Barry Bloom. This shouldn’t be a surprise at all. Beltran is having an awesome season, but he’ll be 40 next April, and the Yankees have a small army of outfielders in Triple-A. They’ve been going young pretty much everywhere possible — and they absolutely need to do that, in my opinion — and part of that is letting Beltran go and replacing him with one of the many younger options. There’s nothing wrong with having a courtesy chat about a new deal, but yeah, this ain’t happening.

Teixeira admits to thinking about retirement

Chances are Mark Teixeira is in his final season as a Yankee — they could bring him back next year as Greg Bird insurance, though I would be surprised — but he has already said he’d like to play five more years. That doesn’t mean he isn’t thinking about retirement though. Here’s what Teixeira said during a recent radio interview when asked about retirement, via Joe Giglio:

“Yea, it’s in the back of mind mind,” Teixeira said. “Absolutely. Even last year when I broke my leg on a fluke foul ball. I’m having a great season and we’re in first place and I break my leg. I’m like, ‘Man, is this ever going to stop?’ You think about how much longer do I want to do this. But you get through it. You have those frustrating times. You joke around when you’re on the DL and think it’s rock bottom watching your team on TV. But you get through and when you get back and hit a couple home runs, you think this is fun again. Hopefully, I’ll get through it this season and perform and help the team. Then we’ll sit down and discuss it as a family as far as what I want to do.”

I can’t imagine thinking and talking about retirement can be an easy thing for a pro athlete. They’re facing the inevitability of walking away from pretty much the only thing they’ve ever known. Teixeira’s been dealing with all these injuries the last few years and you know no one wants to go out like that.

YES ratings down 10% in 2016

According to Richard Morgan, YES Network ratings are down 10% from last season. They’re averaging a little more than 230,000 viewers per game these days. YES averaged nearly 400,000 viewers per game from 2002-11, when the Yankees were in their heyday and contending every year. This isn’t unexpected, right? The Yankees are bad and when teams are bad, ratings (and attendance) drop. Hopefully it doesn’t lead to the team doing something stupid, like trying to spend their way back into contention in a weak free agent market this winter.

Jeter-Davis wedding set for July 2nd

How about we close with some happy news? According to Emily Smith, Derek Jeter and Hannah Davis will be getting married on July 2nd, so two weeks from today. Smith says it’ll be a small family and close friends only ceremony in Napa, and they “want to start a family and have kids right away.” Are those kids gonna have the best genes ever, or what? Also, various social media accounts sure make it seem like Jeter is out doing the bachelor party thing with Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, and Andruw Jones. That is some serious #squadgoals right there.