Yankeemetrics: Massive skid extends into break (July 7-9)

(AP)
(AP)

Groundhog Day in July
Another series, another bullpen failure, and the epic freefall continued with an embarrassing 9-4 loss on Friday night against the Brewers. The all-too-familiar late-inning implosion led to the Yankees 17th blown save, tying the Rangers for the most in MLB, and officially passing their total from last year. Yup, it’s July 10th.

Tyler Clippard once again was the conductor of this bullpen trainwreck, surrendering the game-losing runs in the seventh inning on a tie-breaking grand slam by Jesus Aguilar. Getting pummeled in key late-inning situations is nothing new for Clippard. Batters are slugging .711 against him in high-leverage plate appearances, the highest mark among major-league pitchers this season (min. 50 batters faced). And, for reference, Aaron Judge was slugging .701 after Friday’s game.

Clippard now has 11 Meltdowns – a metric at FanGraphs which basically answers the question of whether a relief pitcher hurt his team’s chance of winning a game. Those 11 Meltdowns are the most for any AL pitcher and tied with Blake Treinen (Nationals) and Brett Cecil (Cardinals) for the major-league lead.

And if the late-inning self-destruction wasn’t depressing enough, the Yankees also failed to take advantage of a sloppy five-error defensive performance by the Brewers.

You have to go back more than five years to find a team that lost a game despite their opponent committing five errors – the Giants against the Diamondbacks on April 8, 2012. And the last time the Yankees suffered such a mistake-filled loss was July 9, 1995 vs. the Rangers.

The one thing that salvaged this game from being another W.L.O.T.S. (Worst Loss of The Season) was – no surprise – another record-breaking performance by Aaron Judge. He hammered his 30th home run of the season in the fifth inning, becoming the first Yankee rookie ever to hit 30 homers. Forget the rookie qualification, Judge is only the third player in franchise history to hit 30-or-more homers before the All-Star break, joining Alex Rodriguez (30 in 2007) and Roger Maris (33 in 1961).

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Boom goes Frazier!
With the Yankees down 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth and staring at another soul-crushing defeat on Saturday afternoon, Clint Frazier came to the rescue and stunningly flipped a near-disaster loss into a rousing walk-off party, drilling a 97-mph fastball over the left field fences for the win.

Showing off his “legendary bat speed,” Frazier made a serious dent in the Yankee record books:

  • Before Frazier, the last Yankee to hit a walk-off homer against the Brewers was Roberto Kelly on Sept. 18, 1991.
  • He is the youngest Yankee (22 years, 305 days) with a walk-off dinger since a 21-year-old Melky Cabrera on July 18, 2006 versus the Mariners.
  • Frazier is the first Yankee rookie to hit a walk-off homer that turned a deficit into a win since Bobby Murcer on Aug. 5, 1969 against the Angels.
  • And, he is the youngest Yankee ever to launch a walk-off home run with his team trailing.

frazier-walk-off-gif

Frazier’s historic game-winning hit capped off a three-hit, four-RBI day by the red-headed rookie:

First, his single in the bottom of the fifth inning broke up Brent Suter’s no-hit bid and also completed the “career cycle” – Frazier’s first three hits in the majors were a home run, triple and double. Then, his run-scoring triple in the seventh inning cut the Yankees deficit to 3-2, and made him the youngest Yankee with a triple in back-to-back games since a 22-year-old Don Mattingly on July 30-31, 1983.

Finally, let’s hand out our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series to Mr. Frazier: He is the first Yankee to be a double short of the cycle in a game since Derek Jeter on April 30, 2010, and the youngest to do that since Mickey Mantle on May 22, 1954.

As the late-game struggles have become a recurring nightmare in recent weeks, it’s easy to forget that we had anointed this team as the Comeback Kids during the first two months. Saturday was the third time the Yankees won a game in which they trailed entering the ninth inning, matching their entire total from all of last season.

Luis Severino struggled out of the gate when he put the Yankees in a 3-0 hole after giving up a three-run bomb in the first inning. Aside from that rocky start, the 23-year-old right-hander was brilliant in blanking the Brewers for six more frames. He finished with 10 strikeouts, the fourth time this year he’s struck out double-digit guys. Severino is the youngest Yankee ever with four 10-strikeout games this early into the season (game number 85).

Aaron Judge didn’t give us any home run heroics, but still added to his unprecedented statistical rookie season on Saturday with his 60th walk – highlighting his rare combo of patience, power and production. Judge is the first player in major-league history age-25-or-younger to pile up at least 30 homers, 60 walks and 95 hits before the All-Star break.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Bad Tanaka is back
There would be no inspiring comeback, no walk-off magic, no wild celebration in Sunday’s rubber game as the Yankees headed to the All-Star break on the heels of another disheartening loss. They ended the unofficial first half of the season with one of their worst extended slumps in the last quarter century, going 0-7-1 in their final eight series and losing 18 of their last 25 games.

The last time the Yankees went eight straight series without a series win — and lost at least seven of them — was August/September 1991. Before this season, they hadn’t endured a 25-game stretch that included at least 18 losses since May/June 1995. And then there’s this sobering fact … the last time the Yankees actually won a series (June 9-11), the Cleveland Cavaliers were still the reigning NBA champions.

The most frustrating part of the game was the Yankees endless string of bad clutch hitting, as they went 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position. It was their worst single-game performance in that situation (min. 15 at-bats) since a 1-for-17 effort on June 8, 2014 against the Royals.

Aside from the pathetic Yankee bats, the biggest culprit in Sunday’s loss was Masahiro Tanaka, who put the Yankees in an early 4-0 hole after the Brewers crushed two homers in the first two innings off him. That brought his dinger total to 23, one more than he coughed during the entire 2016 season.

While much has been made of his weird day/night splits (7-3, 3.10 ERA in night games; 0-5, 14.81 ERA in day games), the more troubling split is his performance versus teams with a .500 or better record compared to a losing record. He’s now 1-5 with a 10.87 ERA in six starts against winning teams, and 6-3 with a 3.66 ERA in 12 starts vs losing teams.

For the second straight day Clint Frazier did his best to rally the troops, belting a two-run opposite-field homer in the fourth inning to cut the Yankees deficit to one run. It was his third home run in seven career games, the fourth Yankee to go yard that many times within their first seven major-league contests. It’s quite an eclectic list: Shelley Duncan, Jesus Montero and Steve Whitaker are the others.

Aaron Judge went 1-for-4 with a walk and heads to the All-Star festivities with an unreal batting line of .329/.448/.691. Since the first Mid-Summer Classic in 1933, Judge is the only Yankee right-handed batter to enter the break with at least a .320 batting average, .440 on-base percentage and .690 slugging percentage (min. 200 at-bats).

7/7 to 7/9 Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

(Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

With injuries and poor performances aplenty, the All-Star break cannot come soon enough for the Yankees. All that stands in their way between four much-needed days off are the (surprisingly good) first-place Milwaukee Brewers.

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees visited Milwaukee for a three-game set in May of 2014, losing two of three. Both losses came by one run, with the series finale coming in walk-off fashion. Some points of interest:

  • Yangervis Solarte went 4-for-10 with 1 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, and 1 BB in the series. By the time it was over he was leading the Yankees regulars in batting average (.315), OBP (.394), and RBI (20).
  • The Yankees bullpen was responsible for both losses, with Alfredo Aceves losing game two, and Matt Thornton, Dellin Betances, and Adam Warren combining to blow game three.
  • Of the players that suited up for the Brewers, only Matt Garza is still in the organization. Ryan Braun was on the team at that time, as well, but he was on the disabled list.

Injury Report

Chase Anderson – the team’s best or second-best starter depending upon your metric of choice – went down with a strained oblique on June 29, and is unlikely to return until sometime in August. He was just joined there by utility man and ‘Face of Baseball‘ Eric Sogard, who suffered a left ankle strain on Wednesday. Wily Peralta is out, as well, but, given his production thus far, the Brewers may be better for it.

Their Story So Far

The Brewers are currently in first place in the NL Central by 4.5 games, with a 48-40 record and a +40 run differential. They’ve won four in a row, and are 15-8 since falling back to a game above .500 on June 13. Their success seems to be a product of average-ish performance across the board, as their offense (13th in wRC+), pitching (8th in park-adjusted ERA, 12th in park-adjusted FIP), and defense (14th in DRS, 16th in UZR/150) are all right around the middle of the pack.

Eric Thames has been the team’s biggest story, as the 30-year-old “busted” prospect turned South Korean superstar returned to MLB, and tore the cover off the ball for the first month of the season (11 HR and a 218 wRC+ in April). He’s cooled off considerably since then, with a 107 wRC+ in May and a 68 wRC+ in June, but the threat of his power still looms.

Their pitching shouldn’t be overlooked, though, as the aforementioned Anderson and Jimmy Nelson have been a formidable one-two punch in the rotation, and Garza has been surprisingly competent. The remainder of their staff has been mostly average – and that alone is a surprise.

Check out Brew Crew Ball for more news and notes about the Brewers.

The Lineup We Might See

Third-year manager Craig Counsell has tinkered with his lineup throughout the year, riding the hot hand as often as possible. Sogard was raking prior to his injury, for example, so he was hitting leadoff for a couple of weeks, while the struggling Jonathan Villar was dropped in the order. Nevertheless, I suspect we’ll see something like this:

  1. Jonathan Villar, 2B
  2. Eric Thames, 1B
  3. Ryan Braun, LF/DH
  4. Travis Shaw, 3B
  5. Domingo Santana, RF
  6. Stephen Vogt, DH/C
  7. Manny Pina, C
  8. Keon Broxton, CF
  9. Orlando Arcia, SS

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. RHP Junior Guerra

Guerra bounced around the minors and independent leagues for over a decade before getting a cup of coffee with the White Sox in 2015. He then spent most of the 2016 season in the Brewers rotation, putting up a 2.81 ERA (152 ERA+) in 121.2 IP as a 31-year-old rookie. His peripherals suggested he was something closer to a league-average pitcher, but he didn’t appear to be a complete and utter fluke. This season has been a different story, though, as he sports a 4.93 ERA/7.10 FIP (!) in 45.2 IP. Guerra also missed nearly two months with a calf injury.

In 2016, Guerra was a three-pitch guy, throwing a mid-90s four-seamer, a mid-80s splitter (with a 20% whiff rate), and a low-80s slider. He introduced a low-90s sinker this year, to mixed results. Guerra’s overall velocity has dropped in 2017, with 2 MPH disappearing from the fastball, and 1-plus MPH coming off of his splitter and slider.

Last Outing (vs. MIA on 7/2) – 4.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 7 K

Saturday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. LHP Brent Suter

The 27-year-old Suter has served as an up-and-down guy/long-reliever/spot starter for the Brewers over the last two years, with mostly strong results (albeit in just 42.2 IP). He has a 3.16 ERA (139 ERA+) as a big-leaguer, with league-average strikeout (19.6%) and walk (6.7%) rates. He took what would have been Anderson’s last turn in the rotation, and he stands to get an extended look.

Suter is a finesse lefty, with a mid-80s fastball, low-80s change-up, and mid-70s slider making up the bulk of his offerings.

Last Outing (vs. BAL on 7/3) – 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K

Sunday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Jimmy Nelson

If Anderson isn’t the Brewers ace, it’s because of the 28-year-old Nelson, who has been borderline dominant at times this season. He has a 3.20 ERA (139 ERA) in 104.0 IP, with comfortably above-average strikeout (26.1%), walk (5.8%), and groundball (49.3%) rates. He was a top-100 prospect heading into his rookie season, so this may well be a legitimate breakout.

Nelson is a four-pitch pitcher, with a low-to-mid 90s four-seamer, a low-to-mid 90s sinker, a slider in the upper-80s, and a mid-80s curveball. He draws praise for sequencing his pitches well, and keeping hitters off-balance with power stuff and movement.

Last Outing (vs. BAL on 7/4) – 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 8 K

The Bullpen

Closer Corey Knebel is the only truly dominant pitcher in the Brewers bullpen, with a 1.11 ERA (403 ERA+) and 43.3% strikeout rate in 40.2 IP. He took over as closer when Neftali Feliz earned his release, and he hasn’t disappointed. Jared Hughes and Jacob Barnes handle the 7th and 8th inning on most nights, and both are solid-average by most metrics. Beyond those three, however, it’s something of a crapshoot.

The bullpen has been taxed of late, as the Brewers have played 22 games in the last 22 days, with a double-header on June 13 somewhat negating their June 26 off-day.

Yankees Connection

This is a bit of a stretch, but Thames was drafted by the Yankees way back in 2007. He was the 1191st overall pick that year, and he elected to return to Pepperdine for his senior year instead of signing.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Keon Broxton was one of my favorite non-Yankees prospects for a while, and he has finally begun to make good on his hyper-athletic promise over the last season and change. He’s hitting .239/.306/.473 (97 wRC+) with 14 HR and 15 SB on the season, and he plays strong defense in center field. He’s something of a hacker, but he’s a fun player to watch nonetheless.

Seeing Nelson pitch could be a treat, as well – particularly the day after we see the soft-tossing Suter.

Yankees acquire Eric Young Jr. from Brewers for cash

EYJ several teams ago. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
EYJ several teams ago. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

The Yankees have acquired outfielder Eric Young Jr. from the Brewers for cash, the team announced. There’s your September pinch-runner specialist. Young is not on the 40-man roster and will report to Triple-A until rosters expand tomorrow.

The 31-year-old Young is a career .247/.314/.328 (74 wRC+) hitter with 114 steals in 149 attempts (77%) in nearly 1,700 big league plate appearances. This year he owns a .263/.338/.339 (83 wRC+) batting line and 23 steals in 116 games with Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate.

None of the offense matters. Young was acquired to run and nothing else. Not hit, not field, nothing. Just run. He is this year’s version of Rico Noel, except we won’t have to pull for him to get his first career MLB hit. Young figures to be called up as soon as rosters expand.

The Rest of MLB [2016 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

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.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

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.

Scouting The Trade Market: Milwaukee Brewers

Lohse. (Mike McGinnis/Getty)
Lohse. (Mike McGinnis/Getty)

The 2015 season is still very young, but one team has already fallen completely out of the race. The Brewers are 9-19 on the season and are already 11.5 games back in the NL Central, and over the weekend they fired manager Ron Roenicke. The club is also reportedly “ready to listen” to trade offers, according to Buster Olney. The Brew Crew quickly pulled the trigger on a managerial change and now they’re ready to start reshaping the roster.

Milwaukee’s two best players — catcher Jonathan Lucroy and center fielder Carlos Gomez — do not make sense for the Yankees, realistically. Brian McCann is locked in at catcher and, like it or not, Carlos Beltran isn’t going anywhere. Both Lucroy and Gomez would be upgrades for the Yankees, but this is the real world, and those moves seem unlikely to be made. Same with Adam Lind. The Yankees aren’t going to give up a prospect and take on about $6.5M in salary to replace Garrett Jones. Ryan Braun? No way. His five-year, $105M extension starts next year.

Those are far from the only guys on the Brewers roster, of course, and despite their terrible start they do have some useful players to market in trades. Some may even be able to help the Yankees. Here are four who jump to mind and could be available for different reasons and different prices.

RHP Matt Garza

Garza. (Mike McGinnis/Getty)
Garza. (Mike McGinnis/Getty)

We’ve done the Garza song and dance multiple times over the years. When he was available in trades, when he was free agent … it seems like every year we’re talking about him as a potential target. The 31-year-old is off to a slow start this year, pitching to a 4.58 ERA (5.41 FIP) in six starts and 35.1 innings. He’s been really homer prone (1.53 HR/9), but I’m guessing that’ll return to normal before long because his 20.0 HR/FB% is way out of line with his career average (9.8%) despite a healthy 48.2% ground ball rate.

Reasons To Pursue: Just last year Garza had a 3.64 ERA (3.54 FIP) and he’s consistently been league average or better throughout his career. He knows the AL East from his time with the Rays — to be fair, he last pitched for Tampa in 2010 and the division has changed a lot since then — and wouldn’t only be a rental. Garza is owed $12.5M this year, next year, and the year after. That’s market value for a league average-ish arm.

Reasons To Back Away: Garza’s strikeout rate is in the middle of a four-year decline — 23.5% to 22.6% to 20.6% to 18.5% to 15.2% from 2011-15 — at a time when strikeouts around baseball are at an all-time high. His walk rate has also climbed from 6.4% in 2013 to 7.4% in 2014 to 10.1% in 2015. Those are bad trends! Garza’s velocity has held fairly steady over the years (averaging 92.4 mph in 2015) but the swing-and-miss rate on both his heater and slider are trending downward:

Matt Garza whiffs

Also not good! Garza’s had some kind of arm problem every year since 2012 — stress fracture in elbow in 2012, shoulder strain in 2013, shoulder tightness in 2014 — and there are statistical trends that indicate he is in the decline phase of his career, which is not what you want in a dude signed through 2017. It might not be long before Garza’s name value exceeds his on-field value, if it hasn’t already.

RHP Kyle Lohse

I’m always wary of guys who go to the Cardinals and revive their careers. They tend to not sustain their performance after leaving St. Louis (Jeff Suppan immediately jumps to mind), but Lohse is the exception. The 36-year-old had a 3.45 ERA (4.02 FIP) in his first two years with the Brewers but has been dreadful in his third, with a 7.01 ERA (6.03 FIP) in 34.2 innings this year.

Reasons To Pursue: Lohse hasn’t lost any stuff this year. His sinker, slider, curveball, and changeup are all moving like they have the last few years according to PitchFX — same general velocity, break etc. — and both his strikeout (15.4%) and walk (5.4%) rates are in line with what he’s been doing since the Cardinals fixed him. In fact, both his soft contact and hard contact rates this season are the best of his three years in Milwaukee:

Kyle Lohse contact

Disclaimer: We don’t know a whole lot about these new quality of contact stats — when do they stabilize? how well do they correlate to ERA? how predictive are they? etc. — so don’t take those numbers to heart just yet. Either way, what Lohse is doing this year isn’t much different than what he’s done in the past, when he was an effective workhorse who limited walks and pitched well despite not missing many bats. There might be some Brandon McCarthy-esque bounceback potential here. Also, Lohse is owed $11M this season and that’s it. He’s a pure rental. No long-term risk.

Reasons To Back Away: Lohse has been amazingly, incredibly, outrageously homer prone in 2015. Like nine homers in 34.1 innings home prone. That’s a 2.34 HR/9 (!). Lohse is sitting on a 20.0 HR/FB% rate despite a career 9.8% rate like Garza — kinda freaky they have identical 2015 and career HR/FB% rates, no? — but unlike Garza, Lohse’s ground ball rate has dropped big time this year. He’s at 35.4% grounders in 2015 after sitting north of 40% the last four or five years.

While a 2.34 HR/9 is really extreme and unlikely to stay that high all year, my concern is Lohse is an older guy who didn’t have a ton of margin for error to start with. He was never a big strikeout or ground ball pitcher, he succeeded with weak contact, but suddenly if his location is off or his pitches don’t have the life they once did, a spike in homer rate is understandable. Again, maybe not that extreme, but enough to take him from above-average NL innings eater to below-average AL five-and-fly guy.

Peralta. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)
Peralta. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)

RHP Wily Peralta

Unlike Garza and Lohse, Peralta is young (25), cheap ($525,500 in 2015), and under team control long-term (through 2018). He’s a potential building block for the Brewers’ rebuild, so his availability isn’t guaranteed. Peralta has a 3.92 ERA (4.58 FIP) in 39 innings this year, his third in Milwaukee’s rotation. He had a 3.53 ERA (4.11 FIP) in 198.2 innings last year and a 4.37 ERA (4.30 FIP) in 183.1 innings the year before that.

Reasons To Pursue: Peralta has some Nathan Eovaldi in him. He had the third highest average fastball velocity among qualified starters last season at 95.6 mph (Eovaldi was fourth at 95.5 mph) yet his strikeout rate (14.6% in 2015 and 17.2% career) is mediocre. Peralta has also improved his walk rate every year he’s been in the show like Eovaldi, going from 9.7% in his 2012 cup of coffee to 9.1% in 2013 to 7.3% in 2014 to 4.9% in 2015. And again, like Eovaldi, Peralta’s slider and changeup show promise but are works in progress. The Yankees love guys who throw hard and throw strikes — Eovaldi and Michael Pineda were targeted in trades for that reason! — and Peralta fits the bill.

Reasons To Back Away: There’s not many aside from the whole “you have to teach him how to get the most out of his stuff” thing, which is significant and something the Yankees are already attempting to do with Eovaldi. Do they want two guys like that in the rotation? Peralta’s ground ball rate has consistently sat around 50% throughout career, which is better than what Eovaldi’s done (mostly around 45%), so maybe the learning curve will be less painful. That said, Peralta has lost 1.5 mph off his four-seamer and 2.0 mph off his two-seamer compared to last April and May. He’s still throwing mid-90s fairly regularly, but that has to be a concern for a guy whose biggest asset is his arm strength.

Segura. (Mike McGinnis/Getty)
Segura. (Mike McGinnis/Getty)

SS Jean Segura

The Brewers have some shortstop depth (Luis Sardinas, specifically) and could look to move Segura for a hefty package right before he gets expensive in arbitration. Young middle infield help is really hard to find. Lots of teams would love to have someone like Segura in the organization. The 25-year-old has hit .282/.321/.369 (92 wRC+) with six steals this year around a concussion suffered when he took a pitch to the helmet.

Reasons To Pursue: Like I said, young middle infielders are hard to find, and the Yankees are looking for long-term solutions at both second base and shortstop. (They hope Didi Gregorius can be the answer at short but the jury is still out on that one.) Segura has one really good season under his belt, hitting .294/.329/.423 (105 wRC+) with 44 steals in 57 attempts (77%) back in 2013. He’s flashed the ability to hit at the MLB level.

Depending on your choice of defensive metric, Segura has either been above-average or below-average in the field. There’s no consensus. Scouting reports from his prospect days said he projected to be an okay defender for what it’s worth, and I tend to stick with the scouts in these situations. Segura is under team control through 2018, though his arbitration salaries figure to be on the high side because of his stolen base totals. Steals pay.

Reasons To Back Away: Segura’s big season in 2013 was really just a big first half. He hit .325/.363/.487 (133 wRC+) with a .349 BABIP in the first half that year, .241/.268/.315 (56 wRC+) with a .285 BABIP in the second half, and then hit .246/.289/.326 (67 wRC+) with a .275 BABIP in 2014. So since that big first half two years ago, Segura has hit .249/.288/.328 (67 wRC+) with a .282 BABIP in just shy of 900 plate appearances. That’s not very good.

Now, that said, middle infielders who have shown they can hit and defend at the big league level don’t hit the trade market often. Their teams hang on to them for dear life, which is why we’re instead talking about a flawed player like Segura. It cost Shane Greene to get Gregorius, who didn’t have anything close to Segura’s 2013 on his resume. The price for Segura should be even higher despite being under team control one fewer year. That’s the cost of middle infield help these days.

* * *

The Yankees have leaned towards rental players with their in-season trades the last few years. The two most notable exceptions are Alfonso Soriano and Martin Prado, and the Soriano deal only happened because his salary was heavily subsidized. Part of that is a function of the market — more rental players are available in trades each year than guys with multiple years of control — but I also think the Yankees try to stick to band-aids in-season, not clutter up the long-term picture.

Now, does that mean they would pass on Peralta or Segura if the price is right? Of course not. Young players are an obvious exception. Someone like Garza — a guy over 30 making good money with signs of decline in his game — might not be though. Lohse is a rental who shouldn’t require a big trade package — McCarthy cost Vidal Nuno, so does Lohse cost … Chasen Shreve? — and fits the Yankees’ trade target mold as a veteran buy low candidate with a track record of success and some reasons to think a rebound is coming.

Either way, the Yankees tend to be patient when it comes to going outside the organization for help in the middle of the season. My guess is they will wait a few weeks before calling the Brewers or any other team with the intention of having serious trade talks. That’s just their style these days. Whenever the Yankees are ready to deal, Milwaukee does have some pieces to offer, but none are truly great fits.

A Haiku for the Rest of MLB [2015 Season Preview]

Does Donnie like Haikus? Of course. (Presswire)
Does Donnie like haikus? Of course. (Presswire)

Opening Day is now only three days away. We’ve spent the last four weeks previewing the Yankees and the upcoming season, and yesterday we broke down the rest of the AL East. Today we’re going to wrap up our 2015 Season Preview series with a quick preview of the other 25 teams in baseball. After all, the Yankees are going to have to try to beat those teams this season too.

If you’ve come here looking for a serious preview post, you’re not going to get it. It’s Friday afternoon, Opening Day is right around the corner, and this year’s preview series is over. Instead, we’re going to have some fun and preview those other 25 teams in Haiku form. I encourage you to tell me how much my haikus suck and to make some of your own — pro tip: use the Haiku Counter to make sure you have the right number of syllables — and leave ’em in the comments. Enjoy.

Atlanta Braves
Traded their best bats
For a whole bunch of pitchers
They know scoring’s down?

Arizona Diamondbacks
Is Nuno their ace?
The answer just might be yes
Payback for ’01!

Chicago Cubs
Bleachers aren’t ready?
No prob, Bryant won’t notice
He’s in Iowa

Chicago White Sox
D-Rob and Melky
Back together in ChiTown
Growing ugly beards

Cincinnati Reds
Good enough to win?
Nah, not in that division
Can we have Cueto?

Cleveland Indians
Brantley is awesome
Kluber is really great
World Series pick? Eh

Colorado Rockies
Troy’s still a Rockie
Kyle Kendrick, OD SP?
Wait for ski season

Detroit Tigers
Miggy, Price, V-Mart
Lots of stars and real big names
Bullpen still a mess

Houston Astros
I don’t understand
You won “process World Series?”
That doesn’t exist

Kansas City Royals
Pennant last season
Volquez is replacing Shields?
For real? Yeah, for real

Los Angeles Angels
They have that Trout guy
I wish the Yankees had him
It’s Teixeira’s fault!

Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw is the best
Donnie Baseball gets his ring?
If not, just blame Puig

Miami Marlins
Paid Giancarlo
They’re going for it again
When’s next fire sale?

Milwaukee Brewers
They all hate Ryan Braun
But not as much as A-Rod
This team is boring

Minnesota Twins
Phil’s still homer prone
Nunez’s helmet still falls off
Just like the old days

New York Mets
Take back New York, huh?
Orange and blue like the Knicks
But with fewer fans

Oakland Athletics
Ballpark is ugly
Beane traded everyone again
What’s a Stephen Vogt?

Philadelphia Phillies
Rebuild? Finally!
Cole will be traded real soon
Then skip to next year

Pittsburgh Pirates
Cervelli pumps fist
McCutchen cut his dreads
A World Series team?

St. Louis Cardinals
Contender again
Such a boringly good team
Gets boring haiku

San Diego Padres
Kemp, Upton, Myers, Shields
But what about Yangervis?
Solarte Partay!

San Francisco Giants
The World Series champs
But it’s an odd number year
So no repeat then

Seattle Mariners
You can have Robbie
You are still stuck with Jack Z.
Yankees win the trade

Texas Rangers
Could this be the year
That Elvis Andrus will hit?
Hah, made myself laugh

Washington Nationals
Awesome rotation!
Future Yankee Bryce Harper
Has nice ring to it

5/9-5/11 Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

(Getty)
(Getty)

For the first time this season, the Yankees are in a National League park for an interleague series. That means no designated hitter and lots of so-called strategy. The Yankees open a three-game set against the Brewers tonight, their first trip to Milwaukee since 2005. The last time they visited Miller Park, Alex Rodriguez hit his 400th career homerun (video). How about that?

What Have They Done Lately?
The Brew Crew come into this series with a 22-13 record and a +13 run differential. That’s the second best record in the game. They have hit the skids of late though, losing their last two games, four of their last five, and six of their last eight.

Offense
Manager Ron Roenicke’s club has a team 90 wRC+ and averages 3.97 runs per game, so it’s a below-average attack. That surprised me. For some reason I thought they were better. OF Ryan Braun (156 wRC+) is currently on the disabled list with an oblique problem and he is not eligible to return until next week. OF Carlos Gomez (147 wRC+) is healthy, but the appeal of his three-game suspension (stemming from a brawl with the Pirates) will be heard today, so he figures to miss at least one game this weekend. His rematch with Brian McCann will have to wait.

(Joe Sargent/Getty)
(Joe Sargent/Getty)

With Braun and potentially Gomez out, the Milwaukee lineup is headlined by C Jonathan Lucroy (117 wRC+), who is one of the most underrated players in the game. He’s a stud both at and behind the plate. 3B Aramis Ramirez (81 wRC+) is off to a really slow start, but you’ll hear him referred to as an “RBI Guy” anyway. Former Yankees 1B Lyle Overbay (79 wRC+) and 1B/3B Mark Reynolds (115 wRC+) are kinda sorta platooning at first, though Reynolds is seeing more and more time given his strong start (and Overbay’s poor start).

2B Rickie Weeks (78 wRC+) has been relegated to the bench in favor of 2B Scooter Gennett (97 wRC+). OF Khris Davis (75 wRC+) has a hilarious 35/1 K/BB, and SS Jean Segura (69 wRC+) simply hasn’t hit since about last June. He got off to such a great start last season but just stopped hitting all together. OF Logan Schafer (63 wRC+) has been playing regularly with Braun out. C Martin Maldonado (208 wRC+), OF Caleb Gindl (1 wRC+), and IF Jeff Bianchi (8 wRC+) fill out the bench and have been varying degrees of useful in limited time. It’s worth noting the Brewers have hit 36 homers this season, the fifth most in baseball. Miller Park is a big-time hitter’s park.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. MIL) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (vs. NYY) (GIFs)
Gallardo, 28, has rebounded from the worst season of his career wonderfully: 2.47 ERA (3.63 FIP) in seven starts and 43.2 innings, with excellent walk (2.27 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%), homer (0.62 HR/9 and 7.0 HR/FB%), and ground ball (51.8%) rates. He isn’t striking out many guys though (5.36 K/9 and 14.4 K%), and righties (.307 wOBA) are hitting him harder than lefties (.273 wOBA). Gallardo has reinvented himself as a two-seam fastball pitcher, using it more than ever before at the expense of his four-seamer. Both pitches sit in the low-90s. He also throws a mid-80s slider and an upper-70s curveball. Gallardo doesn’t have much of a changeup at all.

(Jeffrey Phelps/Getty)
(Jeffrey Phelps/Getty)

Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia (vs. MIL) vs. RHP Kyle Lohse (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Many Cardinals reclamation project pitchers fail to sustain their success elsewhere, but Lohse is the exception. The 35-year-old has a 2.72 ERA (3.25 FIP) in seven starts and 46.1 innings this year thanks to strong strikeout (8.16 K/9 and 22.0 K%), walk (2.33 BB/9 and 6.3 BB%), and homerun (0.78 HR/9 and 8.3 HR/FB%) rates. The grounder rate (39.8%) isn’t anything special. Lefties have clobbered Lohse this year (.372 wOBA) and righties haven’t touched him (.210 wOBA). An upper-80s sinker and low-80s slider are his two main pitches, though he’ll also throw an upper-70s changeup and a mid-70s curve. Lohse is really good, very Hiroki Kuroda-ian. Mixes it up, throws anything at anytime. His days of trying to throw fastballs by everyone are long gone.

By the way, expect Sabathia to get a massive ovation tomorrow night. He’s beloved in Milwaukee for what he did in 2008. Dude started four games in 12 days down the stretch and threw a 122-pitch complete game against the 97-win Cubs on the final day of the season to clinch the Brewers’ first postseason berth in 25 years. Ridiculous.

Sunday: RHP David Phelps (vs. MIL) vs. RHP Matt Garza (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Garza, 30, is a familiar face after all his time with the Rays. He has a 4.93 ERA (3.74 FIP) in his first seven starts and 42 innings with the Brewers, and the peripherals are okay: 7.50 K/9 (18.9 K%), 3.00 BB/9 (7.6 BB%), 0.86 HR/9 (8.5 HR/FB%), and 42.6% grounders. Lefties (.366 wOBA) have roughed him up pretty good so far this year. Righties (.281 wOBA) … not so much. Garza is almost exclusively a low-to-mid-90s fastball/mid-80s slider pitcher at this point. He throws a handful of mid-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs per start, but not nearly as many as he used to. It’s worth noting Garza has been dealing with a thumb issue (jammed it during an at-bat, hooray DH!) and has his last two starts were up and down.

(Rick Yeatts/Getty)
(Rick Yeatts/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The Brewers were off yesterday, so their heavily used bullpen was able to get some rest. RHP Francisco Rodriguez (1.05 FIP) has been dynamite this year, as have setup men RHP Tyler Thornburg (2.12 FIP) and LHP Will Smith (2.19 FIP). Smith might be the most dominant lefty specialist in the game right now. He’s held same-side hitters a .146 wOBA with a 46.2% strikeout rate. Crazy. K-Rod, Thornburg, and Smith are three of only 12 pitchers to appear in 18 games so far this season.

The rest of the bullpen includes RHP Brandon Kintzler (6.58 FIP), RHP Rob Wooten (4.96 FIP), and LHP Zach Duke (1.84 FIP). The Brewers are also carrying Rule 5 Draft pick LHP Wei-Chung Wang (8.81 FIP), who jumped from rookie ball (!) to MLB. Roenicke never uses him. Wang has appeared in only five games (seven innings) this year and they have all been super low leverage emergency mop-up situations. They basically roll with a six-man bullpen and a 24-man roster. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees relievers, then check out Disciples of Uecker  and Brew Crew Ball for everything you need to know about the Brewers.