2014 Season Review: Miscellaneous Arms

Claiborne. (Alex Goodlett/Getty)
Claiborne. (Alex Goodlett/Getty)

Thirty-three different players pitched in at least one game for the Yankees this past season — including Dean Anna! — the second most in baseball behind the Rangers, who somehow trotted 40 different players out to the mound. That’s the most pitchers the Yankees have used in a single-season in their history, five more than the previous record set back in 2011. Injuries, ineffectiveness, and more contributed to that.

We’ve already reviewed most of those 33 pitchers, either individually or in groups, but there are still some stray arms running around out there. Here is the final pitching review of the 2014 season. (We still have some other players and personnel to cover, but the season review series will be over soon.)

Preston Claiborne

Remember how bad Claiborne was in Spring Training? He allowed nine runs and 14 hits (!) in only 5.2 Grapefruit League innings and looked as bad as the stats, as hitters where taking very comfortable swings against him. There was some speculation the Yankees would drop Claiborne from the 40-man roster if space was needed, but that never happened. He didn’t win a bullpen job in camp (duh) and opened the season with Triple-A Scranton.

The 26-year-old Claiborne actually threw more innings in the big leagues (21) than he did with the RailRiders (20.1) in 2014. That’s because he missed roughly eight weeks in the middle of the summer after separating his shoulder. Claiborne went up and down a few times and had a perfectly acceptable 3.00 ERA (3.66 FIP) with the MLB club, though he put 34 men on base in those 21 innings and both his strikeout (6.86 K/9 and 16.7 K%) and walk (4.29 BB/9 and 10.4 BB%) rates were underwhelming. There’s also this:

Brooksbaseball-ChartClaiborne’s velocity — on all his pitches, not just the fastball — has been gradually declining since he broke into the big leagues last May. He started his MLB career with those nine scoreless innings and 19.1 walk-less innings last year, but he hasn’t been the same since the middle of last June or so, pitching to a 5.05 ERA (4.61 FIP) with a 17.7% strikeout rate and a 9.7% walk rate in 51.2 innings since that first career walk. Claiborne is firmly in generic up-and-down reliever territory.

Matt Daley

It’s obvious the Yankees liked something about Daley at some point. They first signed him to a minor league contract back during the 2011-12 offseason, when he was recovering from serious shoulder surgery. The Yankees rehabbed him for the entire 2012 season, re-signed him that offseason, then watched him post a 2.02 ERA (1.88 FIP) in 53.1 innings at three minor league levels in 2013 before giving him a September call-up. Daley struck out eight, walked zero, and allowed just two hits in six scoreless innings for the MLB club. He was the pitcher who replaced Mariano Rivera after Mo’s emotional farewell at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees non-tendered the 32-year-old Daley last offseason only to bring him back on yet another minor league contract. The Queens native spend most of the year with Triple-A Scranton, where he had a 4.54 ERA (3.86 FIP) with excellent strikeout (12.11 K/9 and 30.0 K%) and walk (2.02 BB/9 and 5.0 BB%) numbers in 35.2 innings. The Yankees called him up a few times and he had a 5.02 ERA (6.82 FIP) in 14.1 innings. Daley’s soft-tossing ways resulted in a lot of hard contact, several long homers (2.51 HR/9!), few strikeouts (6.28 K/9 and 15.9 K%), and too many walks (3.77 BB/9 and 9.5 BB%). He allowed six runs in 1.1 innings in his first appearance, threw 10.1 scoreless innings in his next eight appearances, then allowed at least one run in each of his final four appearances. The Yankees released Daley on September 1st to make 40-man roster space for other call-ups. Such is life.

Jose Ramirez

I was very excited about Ramirez coming into the season. The Yankees finally decided to pull the plug on him as a starter due to his ongoing injury problems, and his upper-90s fastball coupled with his knockout changeup and occasionally devastating slider made him an intriguing short reliever. The potential for dominance is there. Maybe not Dellin Betances level dominance, but dominance.

Ramirez. (Presswire)
Ramirez. (Presswire)

Ramirez, 24, missed all of Spring Training with an oblique injury and didn’t make his season debut with Triple-A Scranton until May 7th. He spent a month with the RailRiders before being called up to the big league team in early-June, replacing Claiborne on the roster. Ramirez made eight appearances with the Yankees, allowed runs in five of them, walked a batter in six of them, and took the loss in two of them. He allowed six runs (5.40 ERA) with ten strikeouts (9.00 K/9 and 20.4 K%) and seven walks (7.00 B/9 and 14.3 BB%) in 10 innings before being sent back to Triple-A in early-July.

After returning to the RailRiders, Ramirez made only two appearances before getting hurt and missing the rest of the season. I can’t find any information about the nature of the injury, but he’s dealt with it all over the years. Shoulder, elbow, oblique, you name it. Ramirez had a 1.46 ERA (3.44 FIP) in 12.1 total innings in Triple-A. The 2015 season will be Ramirez’s final minor league option year, so he’ll give it another go and hope to stay healthy so he can prove his worth at the MLB level.

Jim Miller

Like 2013, Miller spent most of 2014 with Triple-A Scranton, where he had a 3.30 ERA (3.10 FIP) in 57.1 innings. The Yankees called him up in early-July, he made two appearances with the team, and allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks in 2.2 innings. Three of those seven hits left the yard. On July 10th, he entered the seventh inning of a game against the Indians with the Yankees down one run. He then allowed five runs in 1.2 innings to put the game out of reach. The Yankees designated Miller for assignment the next day and released him in late-August to clear a roster spot for the RailRiders.

Chaz Roe

The Yankees had a pitcher named Chaz Roe this year. They acquired Chaz Roe on August 31st from the Marlins, where Chaz Roe had spent the season with their Triple-A affiliate. Chaz Roe once had a ridiculous beard:

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Colorado Rockies

Chaz Roe appeared in three games with the Yankees. Chaz Roe allowed two runs in his first appearance, walked the only batter he faced in his second appearance, and allowed one run in his third appearance. The Yankees designated Chaz Roe for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot when Masahiro Tanaka was activated off the 60-day DL at the end of the season. Chaz Roe’s tenure in pinstripes ended with three runs allowed in two innings. Chaz Roe, y’all.

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Injury Updates: Sabathia, Claiborne, Murphy

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Even though the Yankees haven’t played a game in nearly a month now, there are still some injuries that need updating. Here’s the latest on the walking wounded, courtesy of Pete Caldera, Dan Martin, George King, and Josh Norris.

  • CC Sabathia (knee) is still throwing twice a week and he feels “pretty much back to 100%.” He has decided against throwing a bullpen session sometime before Thanksgiving, however. “I thought about that, but what’s the point of throwing a bullpen at Thanksgiving? That was more me not knowing if I was gonna feel good. Now that I know I feel pretty good, I don’t think there’s any reason for me to crank it up at that time. I’ll wait and probably go down to Spring Training a little early in January,” he said.
  • Preston Claiborne missed six weeks with an unknown arm injury while with Triple-A Scranton this past season, and it has now been reported that he had a separated shoulder and an inflamed AC joint. He returned in August and was called up in September. “I was pretty scared. I didn’t know what was going on,” said Claiborne. “Going into the offseason I am healthy and strong. I am in much better shape already.”
  • And finally, retiring VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed John Ryan Murphy suffered a concussion late in the season. This is the injury that sidelined him for two weeks in August while he was with Triple-A Scranton. Murphy was healthy in September and he started behind the plate in two of the final three games of the regular season, including Game 162.

Yankees call up Chris Young, seven others as rosters expand

Preston's back. (Nick Laham/Getty)
Preston’s back. (Nick Laham/Getty)

The calendar has flipped to September, which means it’s time for rosters to expand The Yankees announced they have called up eight players from Triple-A Scranton this afternoon: RHP Chaz Roe, RHP Chase Whitley, RHP Bryan Mitchell, RHP Preston Claiborne, LHP Rich Hill, C John Ryan Murphy, OF Chris Young, and OF Antoan Richardson. They’re all available for tonight’s game. Young took Alex Rodriguez‘s locker, if you’re interested in that sort of stuff.

Whitley, Mitchell, Claiborne, and Murphy are already on the 40-man roster. To make room for Roe, Hill, Young, and Richardson, the Yankees released Matt Daley, designated Zoilo Almonte for assignment, and transferred both Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) and Slade Heathcott (knee) to the 60-day DL. Tanaka has been on the disabled list since July 10th, so he is eligible to be activated next Monday. Heathcott technically had to be called up from Double-A Trenton before he could be placed the 60-day DL.

The Yankees acquired Roe from the Marlins over the weekend and signed Young to a minor league deal last week. It had become obvious Almonte was never going to get a chance in New York, so he has been swapped out for the speedy Richardson, who stole 26 bases in 27 attempts with Triple-A Scranton. Whitley, Mitchell, Claiborne, Murphy, and Hill were all up with the Yankees at some other point this season. Austin Romine is the notable September call-up snub since he’s already on the 40-man roster.

As always, the September call-ups won’t play all that much these next few weeks. They’re there to eat innings in blowouts and give the regulars some rest. Young will probably see time against left-handed starters and Richardson will be the pinch-runner specialist. Given the state of the bullpen, maybe Claiborne or Mitchell will pitch their way into the Circle of Trust™ these next few weeks. Crazier things have happened. Either way, there are some extra warm bodies on the roster now.

2014 Midseason Grades: The Bullpen

Even though it is not really the halfway point of the season, there is no better time to review the first half than the All-Star break. This week we’ll hand out some simple, straightforward, and totally subjective grades, A through F, for the catchers, infielders, outfielders, rotation, and bullpen. We’ve already covered the catchers, infielders, outfielders, and rotation, so now let’s wrap up with the bullpen.

Game over. (Al Bello/Getty)
Game over. (Al Bello/Getty)

David Robertson — Grade A

So maybe replacing Mariano Rivera won’t be so difficult after all. Robertson inherited the closer’s job — to the dismay of more than a few — and has run with it, pitching to a 2.76 ERA (1.73 FIP) in 32 appearances and 32.2 innings. He is 23-for-25 in save chances with a career best strikeout rate (16.26 K/9 and 44.7 K%) and a career best ground rate (51.6%) while keeping his walk rate (2.76 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%) in line with the last two years. Robertson is also holding opponents to a .198 batting average, second lowest of his career (.170 in 2011) despite a career worst .356 BABIP.

Robertson has allowed ten earned runs this year with five coming in one disaster outing against the Twins on June 1st. He has allowed one run while striking out 27 of 56 batters faced since. Overall, 59 of 98 outs this season have been strikeouts, including 58 of 89 (65.2%) since coming off the disabled list (groin) in mid-April. No pitcher who has thrown at least 30 innings this season has a high strikeout rate. It’s not even close, really. Robertson leads in K/9 by more than one full strikeout and in K% by roughly three percentage points. He’s been dominant in every sense of the word.

The Yankees will need Robertson to continue his dominance in the second half for obvious reasons, though his looming free agency will be hanging over everyone’s head. The two sides have not discussed an extension but that could change at any time. Relievers like Robertson — super high strikeout pitchers with proven late-inning/big market chops and no history of arm problems — are rare and the Yankees should make every effort to keep him beyond this season. If his work this year doesn’t convince them he is the man to replace Rivera long-term, then I’m not sure they’ll ever find someone good enough.

Lots of (very) high fives for Dellin this year. (Presswire)
Undisputed best photo of the season. (Presswire)

Dellin Betances — Grade A

Just a few short months ago, Betances had a win a roster spot in Spring Training. Now he’s an All-Star high-leverage reliever who is 1996 Rivera to Robertson’s 1996 John Wetteland. Betances has a 1.46 ERA (1.37 FIP) while ranking third among full-time relievers in innings (55.1) and first in both fWAR (2.1) and bWAR (1.7). His strikeout rate (13.66 K/9 and 40.8 K%) is a bit behind Robertson’s but still among the highest in the league. He’s also stopped walking dudes (2.60 BB/9 and 7.8 BB%) and is getting grounders (50.5%).

Joe Girardi has not been shy about using Betances for multiple innings given his history as a starter — Betances has recorded at least four outs in 25 of his 40 appearances and at least six outs 12 times — though he did take his foot off the gas right before the All-Star break because it did appear the big right-hander was starting to fatigue a bit. His stuff was still electric but not quite as crisp. Hopefully the break recharges his batteries. A little more than a year ago, Betances looked like he may soon be out of baseball. The move into the bullpen has saved his career and given the Yankees a second elite reliever to pair with Robertson in the first season post-Mo.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Adam Warren — Grade B

From spot starter to swingman to trusted high-leverage reliever. Warren has had his role redefined over the last few seasons and he has now settled in as a quality third option behind Robertson and Betances. His numbers — 2.79 ERA (2.70 FIP) in 42 appearances and 48.1 innings — are not quite as good as those two, but he gets strikeouts (8.57 K/9 and 22.4 K%), gets grounders (46.8%), and is stingy with ball four (2.79 BB/9 and 7.3 BB%). His fastball velocity has also ticked up in short relief, averaging 94.1 mph this year after sitting 93.0 last year.

As with Betances, Girardi has taken advantage of Warren’s history as a starter by using his for multiple innings on several occasions — he’s recorded 4+ outs in 18 of his 42 appearances. The Yankees have said that if the need arises, they would pull Warren out of the bullpen and stick him in the rotation, but starters are dropping like flies and it hasn’t happened yet. Warren seems to have found a niche in short relief and he’s been a very valuable member of the bullpen despite being overshadowed by Robertson and Betances.

(Elsa/Getty)
Kelly and Kelley. (Elsa/Getty)

Shawn Kelley — Grade C

It was a tale of two first halves for Kelley, who opened the season as the regular eighth inning guy and nailed down four saves in four chances while Robertson was on the disabled list in April. He had a 1.88 (1.67 FIP) in his first 14.1 innings of the year before a disaster outing against the Angels on May 5th (two outs, four walks, three runs), after which he was placed on the disabled list with a back injury. It kept him out a month and he has a 4.05 ERA (3.21 FIP) in 13.1 innings since returning.

Kelley didn’t look right when he first returned from the back problem. He wasn’t able to finish his pitches and his trademark slider didn’t have much bite. It just kinda spun and floated. He looked much better in his last few outings before the All-Star break — one run, five hits, no walks, 13 strikeouts in 8.1 innings — and hopefully that’s a sign he’s now 100% and ready to take on some late-inning responsibilities so Girardi can spread the workload around. Definitely a mixed bag for Kelley in the first half.

Matt Thornton — Grade C

The rules of baseball fandom say we must hate the team’s lefty specialist, but Thornton has been solid (3.10 ERA and 3.04 FIP) in his 38 appearances and 20.1 innings. As his innings-to-appearances ratio suggests, Girardi has used him as a true matchup left-hander and not tried to force it against righties whenever possible. Thornton has held same-side hitters to a .229/.319/.244 (.262 wOBA) batting line with a 15.1% strikeout rate, a 3.8% walk rate, and a 50.0% ground ball rate. Solid.

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

The only real negative about Thornton is he doesn’t miss bats, even against left-handed hitters. That 15.1% strikeout rate is 76th out of the 90 left-handed pitchers who have faced at least 50 left-handed batters this year. Lefties have swung and missed only 20 times at the 220 pitches Thornton has thrown them this year (9.1%). That kinda sucks for a left-on-left reliever. Thornton missed a week with undisclosed soreness right before the break but did return to pitch against the Indians last week. LOOGYs, huh? Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.

Preston Claiborne and David Huff — Grade C

Remember how awful Claiborne looked in Spring Training? We were talking about him as a candidate to be dropped from the 40-man roster if a need arose, but the Yankees kept him around and he pitched to a 3.57 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 17.2 innings while going up and down a few times in the first half. Three of his nine walks were intentional, uglifying his numbers a bit. Claiborne is currently on the Triple-A Scranton disabled list with a shoulder injury of unknown severity, which is not insignificant given his status as the team’s primary up and down depth arm.

The Yankees re-acquired Huff from the Giants in mid-June as part of their continuing efforts to find a not awful long man, and he’s since given the team 16.2 innings of 2.16 ERA (5.18 FIP) ball. Girardi used him as a matchup lefty while Thornton was out with his soreness and that predictably did not go well. Warren was pretty awesome by long man standards last year and that kinda spoiled us. Most long relievers stink. Is Huff keeping runs off the board? His ERA says yes. Has it been pretty? No but who cares. In that role you just want someone who can limited the damage and Huff has done that for the most part.

Alfredo Aceves — Grade F

Did you realize Aceves threw the sixth most innings among the team’s relievers in the first half? I sure didn’t. The Mexican Gangster threw 5.1 scoreless innings in long relief in his first outing back with the team, but it was all downhill from there. He allowed 14 runs on 20 hits (six homers!) and four walks in his next nine games and 14 innings, putting his overall season numbers at 6.52 ERA (6.29 FIP) in 19.1 total innings. The Yankees designated Aceves for assignment in early-June, he accepted the outright assignment to Triple-A Scranton, and he was recently suspended 50 games after a second failed test for a drug of abuse. He will be missed by: no one.

Matt Daley, Jose Ramirez, Bruce Billings, Jim Miller, Chris Leroux, Cesar Cabral, and Wade LeBlanc — Grade F

The combined pitching line of these seven: 33.2 IP, 46 H, 36 R, 33 ER, 19 BB, 33 K, 6 HBP, 6 HR. That’s an 8.82 ERA and a 5.19 FIP in one more inning than Robertson has thrown this year. I didn’t even include Dean Anna. /barfs

* * *

Girardi has had to rely on his bullpen more than I’m sure he would have liked in the first half, mostly because of the rotation injuries. Yankees relievers have thrown 292 innings this season, the 13th most in MLB, though their 264 total pitching changes are only 23rd most. That’s because of guys like Betances, Warren, and Huff being used for multiple innings at a time.

The bullpen has a 3.85 ERA (3.60 FIP) overall, which is bottom third in the league, but they have a top-heavy relief crew with arguably the best setup man/closer tandem in the game. The late innings are no problem at all. The middle innings are where it gets messy. Kelley is the bullpen key to the second half to me — if he gets back to pitching like he did before his back started acting up, Girardi will have another trustworthy high-strikeout arm who could potential solve that middle innings problem.

Collins: Preston Claiborne placed on Triple-A DL with shoulder injury

Via Donnie Collins: Right-hander Preston Claiborne has been placed on the Triple-A Scranton disabled list with a shoulder injury. The nature and extent of the injury is unknown. Claiborne pitched in last night’s game but eventually walked off with the trainer.

Claiborne, 26, had a 3.57 ERA (3.77 FIP) in 17.2 innings across a few short stints with the Yankees this season. He has a 2.76 ERA (2.84 FIP) in 16.1 Triple-A innings as well. Claiborne was essentially the team’s eighth reliever, getting the call whenever a fresh arm was needed. He wasn’t on the active roster but he was part of the bullpen. Hopefully it’s nothing serious, shoulder issues are scary.