Yankeemetrics: Different city, same ending (July 17-19)

(AP)
(AP)

Stranded on second
The road trip continued westward to Minnesota, and the result was a familiar one. An inconsistent offense on Monday night led to another gut-wrenching close loss, 4-2, droppping the Yankees’ record in games decided by two or fewer runs to 14-23 this season. The only team worse in MLB? The Phillies.

The most frustrating part of the game was that they had six doubles – setting themselves up to drive in a bunch of runs – yet scored only twice. Only once before in the Live Ball Era (since 1920) had the Yankees finished a game with at least six extra-base hits and no more than two runs scored – an 8-2 loss on August 12, 1965 to the …. Minnesota Twins.

The game still had its highlights, however, with a few notable performances by our Baby Bombers. Clint Frazier legged out two ‘hustle’ doubles, giving him eight extra-base hits in his short 11-game career, the second Yankee ever to with that many hits for extra bases in his first 11 career games. The other? Someone named Joe DiMaggio.

One night after getting his first big-league hit, Garrett Cooper went 3-for-4 and drove in a run, earning our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series: Over the last 100 seasons, he’s the only Yankee first baseman to have a three-hit game this early into his career (fourth game).

Caleb Smith pitched in his first major-league game, giving the Yankees the honor of being the first team this season to have 12 players make their MLB debut. Although he ended up allowing the game-winning runs, his performance was noteworthy: he’s the first Yankee since Jose Rijo in 1984 to make his debut as a reliever and strike out at least five guys in the game.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

One game, two wins
Tuesday was a win-win for Yankee fans on and off the field: the team beat the Twins 6-3 thanks to some rare clutching hitting, while the front office delivered some much-need bullpen and corner infield help via a blockbuster trade with the White Sox.

On the field, facing their ol’ buddy Bartolo Colon, the Yankees chased the 44-year-old in the fifth inning as they exploded for five runs to erase a 3-1 deficit. Here’s a #FunFact about Colon (with a shout-out to loyal Twitter follower and guest RAB writer @LFNJSinner): Colon has faced 500 different players in his career, and two of them were the two managers in the dugouts for this series – Joe Girardi (1-for-2 vs. Colon) and Paul Molitor (2-for-8 vs. Colon).

Let’s not forget amid this current collapse that this Yankees team doesn’t ever quit. It was their 14th comeback victory when trailing by at least two runs in the game; only the Diamondbacks and Astros (both with 15) had more such wins through Tuesday.

As for the big news off the field, the Yankees and White Sox completed their first major-league trade since they acquired Nick Swisher in exchange for Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez in November 2008.

By adding David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle (welcome back, guys!) on Tuesday, the Yankees once again appear to be building a dynamic super-pen filled with power flamethrowers to dominate the middle and late innings.

Entering Wednesday, there were 18 relievers in the American League that had pitched at least 20 innings and boasted a strikeout rate of at least 32 percent. Five (!) of them will be wearing pinstripes for the rest of the season – Tommy Kahnle (42.6%), Dellin Betances (42.5%), Chad Green (37.4%), David Robertson (35.6%), Aroldis Chapman (32.7%).

At first glance, Todd Frazier‘s 2017 slashline doesn’t seem to be very encouraging: .207/.328/.432 in 280 at-bats. But their might be some bad luck baked into those numbers. His BABIP of .214 was the second-lowest among qualified hitters at the time of the trade. That includes an unfathomable .144 BABIP in 40 home games.

Statcast metrics tell a similar story: Using the launch angle and exit velocity of his batted balls, you can get a better picture of a hitter’s quality of contact and his true skill, independent of ballpark, defense, etc. That can be expressed in a metric called expected weighted on-base average (wOBA), which is just like OBP but gives a player more credit for extra-base hits.

Based on that method, Frazier had a spread of 29 points between his expected wOBA and actual wOBA, the 10th-largest differential among the 175 players with at least 250 at-bats this season. To put that into perspective, his actual wOBA of .333 ranked 109th in that 175-player sample — the same as Yunel Escobar — while his expected wOBA of .362 ranked 35th — on par with guys like Cody Bellinger (.365) and Robinson Cano (.367).

After a slow start, Frazier also has been heating up recently. Since June 17, he has a wRC+ of 140 in 96 plate appearances – a mark that ranks in the 80th percentile among all players and is better than any other Yankee in that span (min. 75 PA).

Deja vu all over again
If the Yankees were truly going to pull out of their never-ending tailspin and actually win a series, a trip to Minnesota to face the Twins would seem to be the perfect way to jumpstart an extended run. Consider these stats entering this series:

  • 19-6 (.760) at Target Field, the highest winning percentage for any team at any stadium since at least 1913 (min. 15 games).
  • Had never lost a series at Target Field, which opened in 2010.
  • Won five straight series overall against the Twins, tied for their longest active series-win streak versus any AL team (also won five in a row against the Royals).
  • Oh, and the Twins have the worst home record in the AL.

Welp.

Historical success couldn’t help the Yankees, as they lost Wednesday afternoon and fell to 0-8-2 in their last 10 series since sweeping the Orioles at Yankee Stadium June 9-11. It was their first series loss against the Twins since 2014 and their first in Minnesota since 2008.

If not for the second inning, the Yankees might have had a chance to actually break out of their slump. All six of the Twins’ runs came in the second frame and all six also came with two outs, a rare two-out implosion by Jordan Montgomery. Over his previous eight starts combined, the lefty had allowed just five two-out runs and had held hitters to a .180/.255/.340 line with two outs.

The Yankee offense couldn’t bail out Montgomery, either, as their struggles with runners scoring positioned deepened (1-for-7), resulting in another disappointing loss. Even more depressing than their lack of clutch hitting is the recurring nightmare of failing to close out series:

The Yankees have now lost their last nine games in which they had a chance to clinch a series win, and have also dropped 10 consecutive series finales, including eight straight on the road. Overall, this was their 10th loss in a “rubber game” (third game of a three-game series in which the teams split the first two games), which leads all MLB teams this season.

7/17 to 7/19 Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Even though we’re now in the second half, the Yankees have somehow only played ten of the other 14 American League teams so far this season. They’ll knock out two others on this road trip. They’ll start the week in Minnesota and end the week in Seattle. The Yankees and Twins are playing three games in Target Field, starting tonight.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Twins started their second half by losing two of the three to the Astros, who have outscored them 57-28 in six head-to-head meetings this season. A one-sided season series that has been. Overall, the Twins are 46-45 despite a -65 run differential. They’re the anti-Yankees. The Yankees are massively underperforming relatively to their run differential. The Twins are massively overperforming. Also, these two teams are separated by only 1.5 games in the wildcard race — two games in the loss column if you’re smart and keep track of such things — so this isn’t a nothing series.

Offense & Defense

The Twins have a roughly league average offense so far this season. They’re averaging 4.56 runs per game with a team 95 wRC+, so yeah, about average. Minnesota is without CF Byron Buxton (62 wRC+), who was recently placed on the disabled list with a groin injury. He won’t be back this series. Manager Paul Molitor does tend to shuffle things around, though this is generally his go-to lineup:

  1. 2B Brian Dozier (101 wRC+)
  2. CF Zack Granite (-10 wRC+ in 16 plate appearances)
  3. 1B Joe Mauer (104 wRC+)
  4. 3B Miguel Sano (133 wRC+)
  5. RF Max Kepler (105 wRC+)
  6. DH Robbie Grossman (113 wRC+)
  7. LF Eddie Rosario (105 wRC+)
  8. SS Jorge Polanco (53 wRC+)
  9. C Jason Castro (82 wRC+)

Remember when Dozier hit 42 home runs last season? That’s the most ever by an American League second baseman. Well this year he has 15 home runs. He’s have a good power year, though nothing like last year. I’m really surprised the Twins didn’t trade him this past offseason. Dozier’s stock was never going to be higher.

Anyway, Sano is the big scary guy in that lineup. He’s a monster. Kepler, Dozier, and Mauer are no pushovers, however. Dozier’s not what he was last year and Mauer’s not what he was back in the day, though they can still beat you. One thing about the Twins: they draw a lot of walks. Their team walk rate is a healthy 9.6%. Only the Dodgers (10.8%), Yankees (10.1%), and Cubs (9.9%) draw more.

Sano. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Sano. (Rob Carr/Getty)

On the bench the Twins are carrying C Chris Gimenez (93 wRC+), 1B Kennys Vargas (89 wRC+), IF Eduardo Escobar (95 wRC+), and UTIL Ehire Adrianza (91 wRC+). Fun fact: Gimenez has already made six pitching appearances this year. Six! He’s allowed four runs in five innings. That’s already the most pitching appearances by a full-time position player in a single season since Hal Jeffcoat pitched in seven games in 1957. Hopefully the Yankees force Gimenez to get back on the mound this series.

As for defense, the Twins are one of the most improved teams in baseball in the field this season. Last year they ranked 29th among the 30 clubs with a .681 Defensive Efficiency, which means they turned 68.1% of batted balls into outs. This year they’re 14th with a .706 Defensive Efficiency. Going from 29th to 14th is a pretty big jump. Getting Sano out of right field helped there. That said, Buxton is unreal in center, and he’s currently on the disabled list.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (8:10pm ET): RHP Bryan Mitchell (vs. MIN) vs. LHP Adalberto Mejia (No vs. NYY)
In a very roundabout way, Mejia has some ties to the Yankees. He’s the guy the Twins got from the Giants in the Eduardo Nunez trade last year. Eh? No? Nevermind. The 24-year-old southpaw has a 4.43 ERA (5.30 FIP) in 13 starts and 65 innings this season, during which he’s struck out 18.8% of batters faced and walked 11.1%. That’s not too good. His ground ball rate (45.2%) is fine and his home run rate (1.52 HR/9) is high even considering the homer environment around the league. Mejia has a big reverse split this year — lefties have a .385 wOBA against him while righties have a .327 wOBA — though that’s a sample size issue. He’s only faced 50 lefties compared to 238 righties. Mejia works primarily with a low-90s sinker and backs it up with low-80s sliders and changeups, both of which he throws a ton.

Tuesday (8:10pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Bartolo Colon (vs. NYY)
Bartolo! The Yankees helped resurrect Colon’s career back in the day — he was 38 when they signed him out of winter ball back in 2011 and he’s still pitching — and now they’ll be the first team he faces in his return to the AL. Colon was miserable for the Braves earlier this season (8.14 ERA and 5.08 FIP), so they released him, and he hooked on with Minnesota. His strikeout (14.1%) and homer (1.57 HR/9) rates with Atlanta were bad. His walk (6.7%) and grounder (45.6%) rates were fine. Both lefties (.371 wOBA) and righties (.423 wOBA) crushed him. Colon is still throwing about 85% fastballs these days, though his velocity is mostly upper-80s/low-90s now. Remember when he showed up to Spring Training chucking 95-97 mph with the Yankees? That was fun. When he doesn’t throw a fastball, Colon mixes in low-80s sliders and changeups.

Berrios. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Berrios. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Wednesday (1:10pm ET): LHP Jordan Montgomery (No vs. MIN) vs. RHP Jose Berrios (No vs. NYY)
Last year Berrios, 23, was one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Then he got blasted in his MLB debut. He threw 58.1 innings with an 8.02 ERA (6.20 FIP) in 13 starts. Yikes. No other rookie starter in baseball history has posted an ERA that high in at least 50 innings. This season Berrios has gotten back on track, throwing 79 innings across 12 starts with a 3.70 ERA (4.02 FIP). Good strikeout rate (23.0%), okay-ish everything else (7.2 BB%, 42.9 GB%, 1.11 HR/9). Lefties have had a little more success against him than righties (.311 wOBA vs. .277 wOBA). Berrios throws both a straight four-seamer and a sinking fastball in the mid-90s, and his go-to secondary pitch is a cartoonish low-80s curveball. He also throws a mid-80s changeup on occasion. It’s worth noting Berrios started out great, with a 2.67 ERA in his first eight starts, but his last four outings have been rough. He’s given up at least four runs in each of his last four starts, including allowing seven runs in 1.2 innings last time out.

Bullpen Status

Finally, the Yankees will know what it’s been like to face the Yankees’ bullpen these last few weeks. Minnesota’s relief crew has a collective 4.77 ERA (4.83 FIP) on the season, and that’s with All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler posting a 2.23 ERA (3.66 FIP) in 40.1 innings. The rest of the bullpen has been awful. Here is Molitor’s relief crew:

Closer: RHP Brandon Kintzler
Setup: RHP Matt Belisle (5.66 ERA/4.71 FIP) and LHP Taylor Rogers (2.06/3.59)
Middle: RHP Tyler Duffey (4.74/3.60), RHP Ryan Pressly (6.83/4.76), LHP Buddy Boshers (3.47/4.86), RHP Trevor Hildenberger (2.70/2.24)
Long: RHP Phil Hughes (5.87/5.41)

Hughes had surgery to treat Thoracic Outlet Syndrome last year and he wasn’t very good when he first came back, so the Twins moved him into the bullpen. This is the first year of the three-year, $42M extension he signed back in December 2014. He has a 5.04 ERA (4.93 FIP) in innings since signing that deal. That one ain’t working out as hoped.

I should note Hughes is also the only Twins player with real connection to the Yankees. No one else on their roster has previously worn pinstripes, though hitting coach James Rowson was a hitting instructor in New York’s farm system for several years. He worked closely with Gary Sanchez to Aaron Judge, among many others. Rowson left the Yankees and joined the Twins this past offseason. (Update: Colon is an ex-Yankee too. Duh.)

As for recent usage, Hildenberger, Pressly, and Boshers all pitched yesterday. Kintzler, Rogers, Duffey pitched Saturday. No one is coming off back-to-back appearances, so pretty much everyone is fresh, and Kintzler is ready to go for the ninth inning. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen.

2016 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Monday

2016-winter-meetingsThe four busiest days of the offseason begin today. Well, three busiest days. Usually everyone heads home following the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning. Anyway, the 2016 Winter Meetings begin today at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. The Yankees are expected to get down to business today after taking some time to review the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“I said, ‘Listen, give me at least 24, 48 more hours to see what sort of information we can get from baseball,'” said Brian Cashman to Ken Davidoff last week. “So hopefully we’ll be able to hit the ground running Monday at the latest, but it’s in our best interest to know what we’re dealing with, first and foremost … Speeding up the process and going with the youth movement is going to play an even more important part now, more than ever with what appears to be some of the restrictions in the marketplace that are occurring here.”

The Yankees picked up Matt Holliday to be their DH last night, but they’re still in the market for “pitching, pitching, pitching.” All types. Starters and relievers, so much so that they’re said to be in on the all the top free agent closers. We’ll keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here, so make sure you check back often for updates. All time stamps are Eastern Time.

  • 10:30am: Cashman confirmed teams have asked about Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Gleyber Torres, and Justus Sheffield this offseason, among others. The GM added he is “open-minded to listen on anything.”. [Bryan Hoch]
  • 10:30am: The Yankees have not yet made a formal offer to Rich Hill, who is said to be closing in a deal with the Dodgers. New York has been connected to Hill all offseason because he is, by far, the best available free agent starter. [Jon Heyman]
  • 10:30am: Chase Headley and Brett Gardner both remain available, though “interest is relatively mild” at the moment. [Heyman]
  • 11:47am: The Yankees are among the teams looking for a lefty reliever. I assume this means a matchup guy for the middle innings, not simply Aroldis Chapman. [Heyman]
  • 12:41pm: One of the three top closers is off the board: Mark Melancon has agreed to sign with the Giants. No word on the contract terms yet. I’ll guess … four years and $60M. (Update: It’s four years and $62M.) [Buster Olney]
  • 1:16pm: Rich Hill is off the board. The Dodgers have re-signed him to a three-year deal worth $48M, the team announced. The Yankees had been in contact with him.
  • 1:36pm: The Yankees are one of several teams in “ongoing” talks with Luis Valbuena. He’s looking for multiple years and right now the team thinks his asking price is too high. [Joel Sherman]
  • 1:50pm: Chapman wants a six-year deal and says he deserves $100M+. “The only thing I have expressed is that I would like a six-year contract … There are rumors out there that I requested $100M and that’s not true at all. I believe he who deserves something, does not need to demand it,” he said. [Marly Rivera]
  • 2:45pm: The Yankees have checked in with the Twins about second baseman Brian Dozier. Interesting. He’s better and cheaper than Starlin Castro. Whether the Yankees are willing to give up pretty good prospects to get it done is another matter. [Heyman]
  • 4:07pm: Cashman shot down the Dozier rumor. “I haven’t had any dialogue with the Twins about Dozier. That’s a false report,” he said. So much for that. [MLB Network Radio]
  • 4:21pm: Cashman acknowledged the Yankees are after Chapman, but won’t go all out to sign him. “It’s going to be costly. We’re prepared to a degree to compete for that,” he said. [Casey Stern]
  • 5:15pm: The Yankees are still talking to Kenley Jansen in addition to Chapman. There are also some bullpen trade opportunities, according to Cashman. [Hoch]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Yankeemetrics: When two out of three isn’t enough [June 24-26]

(AP)
(AP)

Chapman heating up
The Yankees continued their homestand with another win against their favorite punching bag (and the worst team in the AL), the Minnesota Twins. By taking five of their first seven matchups against the Twins this season, they’ve clinched their 15th straight non-losing season series versus them.

That’s the second-longest streak of its kind in the history of this rivalry, which dates back to 1903 when the Twins were known as the Washington Senators. Amazingly, from 1934-64, the Yankees went 31 straight years without losing a season series to the Senators; the only year they didn’t end up with an outright advantage was in 1943, when the teams split their 22 matchups.

Masahiro Tanaka wasn’t sharp, but he was still good enough to give the Yankees a chance to win, allowing three runs in six innings. Despite struggles with his overall command, his splitter was in peak form. “Haven’t had that good of a split for a while,” Tanaka told Chad Jennings of Lohud.com after the game.

The Twins whiffed on nine of their 17 (53 percent) swings against the pitch, his second-highest whiff rate on the splitter this season. The pitch also netted him seven outs, including four strikeouts, and the lone hit allowed off the pitch was a single in the sixth inning. The key was his ability to keep the splitter down in the zone – he located the pitch an average of 1.74 feet below the center of the strike zone, his lowest mark of the season.

Masahiro Tanaka (1)
Aroldis Chapman had perhaps his most electric performance of the season so far, striking out the side in the ninth inning on 11 pitches. The first 10 were fastballs at 100-plus mph, increasing in speed on each successive pitch, with the final four going over 103 mph. And then he dropped a 90 mph changeup for a called strike three on Kurt Suzuki to end the game. Ridiculous.

Through Friday’s games, there had been 77 pitches of at least 103 mph thrown in the regular season since 2008 (the start of the Pitch F/X era). Seventy-five of them came from the arm of Chapman; the other two were thrown by Neftali Feliz and Henry Rodriguez, both in 2010.

Bronx bunters
The Twins are the gift that keeps on giving for the Yankees, who beat Minnesota for the fifth time in six matchups this season.

It was an unusual win from a statistical perspective: the Yankees had 10 hits in the game, but all were singles. The only other time over the last nine seasons that they won a game at home with double-digit hits and no extra-bases hits was on July 6, 2013 vs. the Orioles.

arod dork
(Getty)

Tied 1-1 heading into the eighth inning, the Yankees staged a most improbable rally, one that began with an infield single by Alex Rodriguez and was capped off by Aaron Hicks scoring the go-ahead run when Starlin Castro reached on an error by Twins shortstop Eduardo Escobar. For Castro, it was his team-leading third go-ahead RBI in the seventh inning or later.

Castro might have been the hero, but it was Michael Pineda who stole the spotlight with his finest effort of the season. The right-hander surrendered one run on two hits while striking out eight batters with one walk in six innings.

It was his fifth start this season of at least eight strikeouts and one or fewer walks, the second-most in the AL behind Chris Sale (six). The rest of the Yankee pitchers this season combined for two such starts through Saturday.

Pineda struggled mightily during the first two months, and entered June with an MLB-worst 6.92 ERA, but has seemingly turned his season around since the beginning of the month. He now has 3.00 ERA with 37 strikeouts and five walks in his last five starts, and just 25 hits allowed in 30 innings.

His darting slider was a key weapon for him against the Twins, who went 0-for-10 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending with the pitch. It was the first time all season he didn’t allow a hit on his slider. He was able to bury the pitch in the dirt, inducing whiffs on half the swings against the pitch. It was the third time in five June starts he’s had a swing-and-miss rate of at least 50 percent with his slider, after doing so just three times in his first 10 starts.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Boooooooo-birds in the Bronx
With a chance to get to two games above .500 for the first time since April 12 and extend their win streak to four games, the Yankees instead flopped miserably, losing in near-historic fashion to the worst team in baseball.

The final tally for the Yankee pitching staff was eight hits, seven runs and six homers allowed. It was the most homers the Yankees have ever allowed in a game against the Twins/Senators franchise. The last time the Yankees surrendered a half-dozen longballs in a game against any team was Sept. 6, 2012 vs. the Orioles at Camden Yards and the last time it happened in the Bronx was May 7, 2009 against the Rays.

Each of the six homers was hit by a different player, making this just the second time that six guys have gone deep in a game against the Yankees. The only other team to do it was the Indians on April 18, 2009 (R.I.P. Chien-Ming Wang and Anthony Claggett).

Nathan Eovaldi had allowed just one run through five innings before he imploded in the sixth frame, giving up three consecutive two-out homers. He’s the first Yankee pitcher to allow back-to-back-to-back homers since Chase Wright coughed up four in a row against the Red Sox on April 22, 2007.

Sunday’s outing ended a nightmare June for the enigmatic righty. In five starts this month, Eovaldi posted a 8.65 ERA as opponents hit .338/.388/.696 with 10 homers against him. The 10 homers were the most allowed by a Yankee pitcher in any calendar month since Jack McDowell also gave up 10 in June of 1995.

As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, Tyler Duffey took a perfect game into the sixth inning and finished with a shiny pitching line of eight innings, two hits, no walks and eight strikeouts. He’s the first pitcher to go at least eight innings and allow two or fewer baserunners against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium since Pedro Martinez’s epic 17-strikeout, 1-hitter on Sept. 10, 1999.

6/24 to 6/26 Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

(Ed Zurga/Getty)
(Ed Zurga/Getty)

The Rockies and the Twins and the Rockies and the … Twins. This eleven-game stretch against the Rockies and Twins ends this weekend with three games against Minnesota. The Yankees have gone 4-4 in the first eight games, which isn’t good. They did take three of four in Target Field last weekend though. Now these two teams will play three in Yankee Stadium this weekend.

What Have They Done Lately?

After the Yankees left town last weekend, the Twinkies played three games against the Phillies at home, and they took two of three. They dropped the finale yesterday. Minnesota is 23-49 with a -115 run differential overall. That is the worst record and run differential in all of baseball. Yes, even worse than the Braves (25-47 and -97).

Offense & Defense

When you’re as bad as the Twins, you do everything poorly. That includes scoring runs. They average only 4.04 runs per game with a team 90 wRC+. Bad. Bad bad bad. The Twins are without OF Miguel Sano (115 wRC+), who is due to begin a minor league rehab assignment sometime this weekend. He won’t return this series. Also, 3B Trevor Plouffe (71 wRC+) is day-to-day with a groin strain. Word is he won’t go on the DL but may have to sit out this weekend.

Nunie & Mauer. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Nunie & Mauer. (Getty)

Manager Paul Molitor’s best hitter so far this season has been ex-Yankee IF Eduardo Nunez (121 wRC+), who has started to slow down the last two weeks or so. Now that I said that he’s going to hit about .800 this weekend. Way to go, me. 1B Joe Mauer (107 wRC+) is the big name and 2B Brian Dozier (101 wRC+) has been one of their better players over the years as well. RF Max Kepler (99 wRC+) torched the Yankees last weekend. CF Byron Buxton (46 wRC+) looked lost though. The Yankees picked him apart at the plate.

LF Robbie Grossman (160 wRC+) has been excellent since being recalled about a month ago. High-priced Korean import DH Byung-Ho Park (89 wRC+) isn’t working out too well, though he does mash taters (12 HR). C Kurt Suzuki (91 wRC+) always crushes the Yankees for some reason. SS Eduardo Escobar (84 wRC+) is probably going to play short with Nunez at third while Plouffe is out. C Juan Centeno (47 wRC+) and UTIL Danny Santana (63 wRC+) are the other bench players.

Defensively, the Twins have a very good outfield and one really good infielder in Dozier. Escobar can pick it on occasion too. Nunez still makes his hilarious errors from time to time. You know what I mean. Good old Eduardo Scissorhands. Mauer is okay at first base and Suzuki was never quite as good defensively as his reputation. He’s a classic Nichols Law catcher.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:05pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. MIN) vs. LHP Tommy Milone (vs. NYY)
Remember Pat Dean, the generic lefty the Yankees hammered for seven runs in 2.1 innings in Minnesota last week? The Twins sent him down to Triple-A after that game and replaced him with the even generic lefty-ier Milone. The 29-year-old southpaw has a 5.79 ERA (5.18 FIP) in four starts and one relief appearance so far this season, and as always, he’s kinda limited walks (7.1%) while giving up a ton of homers (1.93 HR/9). His grounder rate (48.6%) is good and his strikeout rate (19.4%) is better than it’s ever been before, though I think that’s a sample size thing and not a change in skills thing. Righties have historically punished Milone, who sits 87-89 mph with his four-seamer and sinker. Low-80s changeups and sliders are his two primary offspeed pitches. The Yankees didn’t see Milone during the series in Minnesota last weekend.

Saturday (1:05pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (vs. NYY)
Santana, 33, has been a rock solid starter throughout his career, but he’s having a miserable 2016 season, pitching to a 4.83 ERA (4.50 FIP) in 13 starts and 72.2 innings. His strikeout (17.7%), walk (6.8%), and grounder (43.8%) numbers are in line with his career norms, but he’s been much more homer prone (1.36 HR/9) than usual, and for some reason righties are hitting him much harder than lefties. That’s the opposite of the rest of his career. Santana still sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and he still throws a ton of mid-80s sliders. He’ll also throw a few mid-80s changeups per start to keep hitters honest. Santana held the Yankees to three runs (two earned) in 7.1 innings last week.

Duffey. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
Duffey. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

Sunday (1:05pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Tyler Duffey (No vs. NYY)
The 25-year-old Duffey had an excellent rookie half-season in 2015 (3.10 ERA and 3.24 FIP), but he’s been unable to carry that success over into 2016. Through eleven starts and 59.2 innings he owns a 6.18 ERA (4.68 FIP) because he gives up a ton of homers (1.68 HR/9). Yikes. His strikeout (18.0%), walk (5.1%), and grounder (45.6%) rates are solid yet unspectacular. Both lefties and righties have given Duffey problems this year. Low-90 four-seamers and sinkers set up a hard low-80s curve and a low-80s changeup. The Yankees didn’t face Duffey when these two clubs met a week ago.

Bullpen Status

Poor Paul Molitor. This bullpen is a disaster. The Twins have one good reliever and he’s a lefty specialist. They’ve had to cycle through several closers too. Not great, Bob. Here is their relief crew.

Closer: RHP Brandon Kintzler (2.75 ERA/4.80 FIP)
Setup: LHP Fernando Abad (2.16/2.76), RHP Michael Tonkin (3.82/3.71)
Middle: RHP Kevin Jepsen (6.08/6.29), LHP Buddy Boshers (0.90/1.52), RHP Ryan Pressly (3.99/4.14), LHP Taylor Rogers (3.98/4.79)
Long: RHP Neil Ramirez (5.14/6.55)

Closer Glen Perkins is done for the year with a shoulder injury, and Jepsen replaced him earlier in the season. He kept getting lit up though, so now Kintzler is seeing ninth inning time. Abad, who has been far and away Minnesota’s top reliever (Boshers has thrown ten innings), is his primary setup man. Everyone else is there because, well, someone has to pitch, you know?

Jepsen, Rogers, and Tonkin all threw an innings’ worth of pitches yesterday. Rogers has pitched on back-to-back days. You can head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen. They had an off-day yesterday, so everyone is pretty fresh.

Yankeemetrics: The terrible Twinkies [June 16-19]

(Getty)
(Getty)

Sabathia heating up
There haven’t been many enjoyable things to watch with this year’s Yankees team, but one of them undoubtedly is the masterful, turn-back-the-clock season of CC Sabathia.

He continued his brilliance on Thursday, working out of several jams to pitch six innings of one-run ball in the Yankees’ 4-1 win over the Twins. He put 10 guys on base but stranded nine of them, consistently generating weak ground ball outs to end rallies and finish off innings. His ground ball rate of 70.6 percent was his highest in a start this season.

Sabathia also dialed up the heat on his pitches and seemed to get stronger as the game wore on. His cutter (91.5 mph), sinker (93.3 mph) and slider (82.4 mph) each had their highest average velocities in a game this season, and he maintained that velocity as he approached 100-plus pitches late into his outing.

The large lefty now has a 0.82 ERA in his last seven starts, the lowest among all pitchers with at least 30 innings since the start of May through Thursday. Sure, that’s an arbitrary endpoint, but consider this: Clayton Kershaw’s best ERA over a seven-start span this year is 0.81 and his best seven-game mark last year was 0.82.

Didi Gregorius provided the margin of victory with a tie-breaking three-run homer in the seventh inning off lefty specialist Fernando Abad. The Twins reliever entered the game having allowed only three hits in 30 at-bats against lefty hitters this season, and had yet to surrender a longball to anyone. Didi, of course, entered the game with the best batting average among left-handed batters against left-handed pitchers in MLB this season — and won the strength-versus-strength battle.

The blast was also his second three-run homer in three games, which gives us this #funfact: Didi is the first Yankee shortstop to hit multiple three-run home runs in a three-game span since Roy Smalley, who hit two of them in a game against the Royals on Sept. 5, 1982.

Tanaka time
There’s nothing like a trip to the Twin Cities to cure those losing-streak blues. The Yankees continued to pound a bad Twins team on Friday night, winning 8-2 thanks a balanced offense that scored early and often to support a stellar performance by Masahiro Tanaka.

Tanaka bounced back from a rough start last week against the Tigers, throwing eight innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts and no walks. It was his 11th game allowing two earned runs or fewer, the most such starts among all American League pitchers through Friday’s slate.

The outing also marked his fifth straight start on the road with at least six innings pitched and no more than one earned run allowed. Only one other pitcher in franchise history has fashioned a streak like that in a single season: Whitey Ford, who did it in 1950, 1963 and 1964.

(AP)
(AP)

Comeback kids
Down 4-0 heading into the eighth inning, Saturday’s game seemed destined to end in another frustrating loss. But then the Twins remembered who they were (a very bad baseball team), the Yankees remembered where they were playing (Target Field; aka Yankee Stadium Midwest), and their bats came alive to spark another late-inning rally. In the end, the Bronx Bombers had their first win this season when trailing after seven innings.

Alex Rodriguez — who was riding a season-high 11-game homerless streak entering this game — cut the deficit in half with a two-run blast in the seventh inning. That hit gave him 5,795 career total bases, passing Babe Ruth (5,793) for sixth place on the all-time MLB list.

Carlos Beltran then tied the game with an opposite-field homer in the eighth inning off Kevin Jepsen. His 18 homers are the most by any Yankee age 38 or older this early into the season, one more than Babe Ruth had through 68 team games in 1933.

Jacoby Ellsbury capped the comeback win with a bases-loaded RBI single in the next frame. It was the first time since joining the Yankees three seasons ago that he delivered a go-ahead hit in the ninth inning.

Aroldis Chapman made things interesting in the ninth inning as he tried to close out the game. He surrendered back-to-back two-out homers to Eduardo Escobar and Kurt Suzuki, which sliced the lead to 7-6, before he eventually got the save. Suzuki’s shot came off a 102 mph fastball, the fastest pitch ever hit for a home run by any player in the Pitch F/X era (since 2008).

(AP)
(AP)

Sweep-less in Minneapolis
As much as the Yankees have dominated the Twins in Minneapolis recently, they couldn’t complete the four-game sweep this weekend, blowing an early lead and losing 7-4 on Sunday afternoon.

The Yankees entered the final game of this series with a 19-5 record in the regular season at Target Field (and 2-0 in the postseason), a mark that was notable in several ways. It was the:

  • highest win percentage at Target Field by any AL team
  • highest win percentage at any stadium by any team since 2010 (when Target Field opened)
  • highest win percentage for the Yankees at any park over the last 100 seasons (min. 20 games)

The loss was even more improbable given the opposing starter, Ervin Santana, who had a 7.71 ERA in his previous five outings this season and who hadn’t beaten the Yankees since August 1, 2008. His streak of 11 straight starts without a win against New York was the longest active winless streak versus the team by any starting pitcher.

Brian McCann broke out of his hitting slump in style, crushing two homers deep into the right-field seats and beyond; according to Statcast, they traveled 421 and 450 feet. Since 2008 (as far back as Statcast has batted ball distance), the only other Yankee with two homers of at least 420 feet in the same game was A-Rod on July 25 last season, also at Target Field against the Twins.

6/16 to 6/19 Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The eleven-game stretch against the Rockies and Twins has not gone well so far. Not at all. The Yankees were just swept in two games in Colorado, and now they’re in Minnesota for four against the Twinkies. The good news? The Yankees are 18-5 all-time at Target Field. The Twins always seem to cure whatever ails the Yankees.

What Have They Done Lately?

Believe it or not, the Twins played a night game on the West Coast last night. They were in Anaheim to play the Angels. The Yankees were probably already checked into their hotel in Minneapolis before that game even started. Minnesota lost last night’s game and they’ve lost eight of their last 12 games overall. They come into this series with the AL’s worst record (20-45) and run differential (-109). Only the Braves have a worse record in all of baseball, and they’re only one game worse than the Twins.

Offense & Defense

Manager Paul Molitor’s team doesn’t have the worst record in the league by accident. They don’t do anything well. They’re averaging only 3.88 runs per game with a team 88 wRC+, so offense is hard to come by. It doesn’t help that RF Miguel Sano (115 wRC+), who is definitely their best power hitter and arguably their best hitter overall, is out with a hamstring injury. We won’t see him this week. OF Darin Mastroianni and UTIL Danny Santana are also on the DL.

Buxton. (Getty)
Buxton. (Getty)

Minnesota’s token All-Star this season is probably going to be ex-Yankee SS Eduardo Nunez (126 wRC+), who is having himself one heck of a season. Good for Nunie. He leads off for the Twins with LF Robbie Grossman (185 wRC+), 1B Joe Mauer (116 wRC+), 3B Trevor Plouffe (65 wRC+), and 2B Brian Dozier (93 wRC+) falling in line behind him. DH Byung-Ho Park (94 wRC+) hasn’t worked out quite as well as Jung-Ho Kang did for the Pirates last year, at least so far. He’s typically the No. 6 hitter behind Dozier.

Top prospects CF Byron Buxton (61 wRC+) and RF Max Kepler (63 wRC+) roam the outfield with Grossman. Buxton got off to a terrible start (29 wRC+), went to Triple-A for a few weeks, mashed (188 wRC+), then returned. He’s done better since coming back (88 wRC+). C Kurt Suzuki (65 wRC+) is the regular catcher — ex-Yankee C John Ryan Murphy is currently in Triple-A — and ex-Yankees farmhand C Juan Centeno (60 wRC+) is backing up. IF Eduardo Escobar (59 wRC+) and OF Oswaldo Arcia (78 wRC+) are the other bench players.

In the field, the Twins have above-average defenders in all three outfield spots as well as second base. Plouffe is okay-ish at third and Mauer is fine at first. Nunez? He still has his Eduardo Scissorhands moments at short for sure. Suzuki has long had a reputation for being a good defender even though he’s never been particularly adept at throwing out runners or framing pitchers.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (8:10pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (vs. NYY)
Boy oh boy did I think Gibson was going to be a star back in the day, when he was drafted out of Missouri in 2009. It hasn’t happened, partly due to injuries. The 28-year-old has a 6.49 ERA (5.33 FIP) in five starts and 26.1 innings around arm problems this year, and he’s walked exactly as many batters as he’s struck out (10.5%). That is never good. Gibson is getting grounders (54.2%) and doing an okay job keeping the ball in the park (1.03 HR/9), and lefties are just destroying him. He works in the low-90s with his sinker and four-seamer, and his go-to pitch is a mid-80s slider. Gibson also throws some low-80s changeups and a few low-80s curveballs per start as well.

Friday (8:10pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. MIN) vs. LHP Pat Dean (No vs. NYY)
Dean, 27, finally made his big league debut this season after spending parts of seven seasons in the minors. He has a 4.17 ERA (4.36 FIP) in 36.2 innings spread across five starts and two relief outings. Dean has decent enough peripherals across the board: 18.1% strikeouts, 7.7% walks, 40.9% grounders, and 1.23 HR/9. Righties have had more success against him than lefties. Dean is a finesse guy with a fastball in the 88-91 mph range, and when he cuts it, it comes in around 86 mph. A mid-80s changeup is his main offspeed pitch, and he also throws a mid-70 curve. Dean fits the “general lefty” mold to a T.

Dean. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Dean. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Saturday (2:10pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (vs. NYY)
A few years back the Twins decided to spend some money on pitching, and that led to them spending $49M across four years on Nolasco. Not the wisest decision. The 33-year-old has a 5.12 ERA (3.46 FIP) in 13 starts and 77.1 innings, so he’s still doing that FIP underperforming thing he’s done his entire career. People kept waiting and waiting and waiting for a breakout because his FIP was considerably lower than his ERA each season. The breakout never came. That’s just who he is. Nolasco has impressive strikeout (20.7%) and walk (4.3%) numbers, though he’s nothing special in the grounder (42.6%) and homer (1.05 HR/9) departments. His platoon split is small, mostly because he’s a kitchen sink guy with something for everyone. He sits in the low-90s with his four-seamer and sinker, in the low-80s with his splitter and slider, and the mid-70s with his curveball. Nolasco throws all five pitches regularly too.

Sunday (2:10pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (vs. NYY)
That decision to spend money on pitching? It also led the Twins to Santana. They gave him four years and $54M. Forfeited a draft pick too. And then Santana failed a performance-enhancing drug test during his first Spring Training with the team. So yeah, this signing hasn’t gone according to plan either. Santana, 33, has a 5.10 ERA (4.58 FIP) in 12 starts and 65.1 innings this season. His peripheral stats look like they always have: 17.3% strikeouts, 7.4% walks, 43.3% grounders, and 1.38 HR/9. The homer rate is higher than usual, I guess. Righties have hit him harder than lefties, but that is exact opposite of the rest of his career. Santana still sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and he still throws a ton of mid-80s sliders. He’ll chuck a few mid-80s changeups per start. Santana’s the same guy he’s always been.

Bullpen Status

Remember how I said the Twins struggle to score runs and they don’t really do anything well? Well, thanks in part to their bullpen, Minnesota is on pace to allow 900 runs this season. That would be the most allowed by any team since the 2008 Rangers allowed 967 runs. Egads. Like most teams these days they’re carrying eight relievers. Here is Molitor’s bullpen crew:

Closer: RHP Kevin Jepsen (5.40/5.31)
Setup: LHP Fernando Abad (0.79/1.99), RHP Brandon Kintzler (2.65/4.67)
Middle: RHP Buddy Boshers (0.00/1.37 in 5.2 IP), RHP Ryan Pressly (4.17/4.31), RHP Neil Ramirez (5.11/6.95), LHP Taylor Rogers (5.28/5.55), RHP Michael Tonkin (3.27/3.50)

Regular closer LHP Glen Perkins has thrown only two innings this season because of an ongoing shoulder issue. Turns out he had a tear in his labrum and needs season-ending surgery. That’s a shame. Ramirez (39 pitches) and Rogers (30 pitchers) both threw a lot yesterday. Everyone else should be good to go tonight.

I strongly recommend taking those roles with a grain of salt. Outside of Jepsen, who has been a constant in the ninth inning, and Abad, the high-leverage lefty, no one seems to have a set role. Molitor mixes and matches and sort of brings guys in whenever. It was tough to find a pattern when looking over his bullpen usage.

As for the Yankees, you can head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s top relievers. Right now they’re in “use the big relievers in games the Yankees are losing because they need work” mode. Sucks.