Yankeemetrics: Ending with a win, finally (Aug. 25-27)

(AP)
(AP)

Extra awful loss
The uniforms might have looked different, but the result was a familiar one for Yankee fans in the Bronx on Friday night – a frustrating and gut-wrenching 11-inning, 2-1 loss. While another late meltdown by the bullpen was the trigger point, the lack of clutch hitting and numerous wasted scoring opportunities gave the Yankees virtually no chance to win the game.

Let’s recap the ugliness:

  • It was their 22nd one-run loss of the season, the most in the American League through Friday, and 10(!) more than they had all of last season.
  • It was also their sixth extra-inning loss, twice as many as they suffered in 2016.
  • And it was the 22nd time the bullpen was charged with a loss, the third-highest total in the AL through Friday, behind the Rays and Rangers.

Aroldis Chapman‘s miserable season continued as he coughed up the game-winning homer to Yonder Alonso in the top of the 11th inning. Chapman wore the goat horns, and also gets stung with our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series:

He is the second Yankee ever to give up an extra-inning go-ahead homer at Yankee Stadium against the Mariners. The other one happened on June 14, 1978 when Leon Roberts took Sparky Lyle deep in the top of the 10th, a shot that was rendered meaningless when the Yankees rallied in the bottom of the frame to win the game.

Alonso is also the second left-handed batter this month to homer off the Cuban Missile. That is a mind-blogging fact considering Chapman had surrendered only one home run to a lefty in his career before Rafael Devers took him deep two weeks ago (Luke Scott was the other on June 26, 2011).

To sum it up: he allowed one homer to the first 418 lefty batters he faced in the majors, and since has allowed two homers to the last 12 lefty batters he’s faced in the majors.

With Alonso hammering a 100.1 mph pitch from Chapman into Monument Park, it’s becoming more and more likely that his blazing fastball is no longer a weapon of intimidation in the pitcher-hitter duel. Batters are squaring up on his triple-digit heater more often than ever. Look at these numbers for the 100-plus mph pitches he has thrown in this career.

Year Pitches Slug pct Home runs Whiff rate
2017 253 .324 2 15%
2010-16 2,330 .150 3 22%

The Yankees wasted a gem from CC Sabathia, who was brilliant in his second start since coming off the DL, going seven innings and allowing just one run. Sabathia’s late-career resurgence is reminiscent of another Yankee legend who had a couple strong seasons after reaching the midpoint of his 30s, Mike Mussina. And so it was fitting that the two pitchers had a cool statistical convergence on Friday night:

When Sabathia took the mound at the start of the game, it was his 249th start as a Yankee, breaking a tie with Mussina for sole possession of 11th place on the franchise’s all-time games started list. And when Sabathia struck out Kyle Seager in the sixth inning, it was his 2,814th strikeout, passing Mussina for 19th place on the Major-League all-time strikeout list.

(AP)
(AP)

Sonny skies all day
The crushing losses have been piling up, but the resiliency of this team hasn’t waned. That toughness was on display again this weekend when the Yankees bounced back from Friday’s devastating loss to beat the Mariners 6-3 on Saturday. They’ve now won seven of their last 10 games following a one-run loss, dating back to the last week of June.

Sonny Gray delivered his finest performance as Yankee, striking out nine and allowing just one run in seven stellar innings. He’s pitched at least five innings and allowed no more than two earned runs in each of his first five starts with the Bombers, becoming the first pitcher to begin his Yankee tenure with a streak like that since Tommy John in 1979.

This excellent stretch extends even further back to his final month in Oakland too; Saturday was his 11th consecutive start giving up fewer than three earned runs, the longest streak by any pitcher in the majors this season. In that span – since June 25 – he’s compiled an ERA of 1.95, the lowest by any American League pitcher (min. 30 IP) over the last two months.

Gray dominated with his two breaking pitches, as the Mariners swung at 18 curves/sliders and whiffed on 11 of them, including five for strike three. But perhaps more impressive was how he repeatedly froze batters with his two-seamer. He got a career-best 15 called strikes among the 54 two-seam fastballs he threw, and most of those takes were in the heart of the zone (orange dots below):

sonny-gray2

While Gray shined on the mound, Jacoby Ellsbury had a rare starring role as the offensive spark plug, with an RBI single and a tie-breaking three-run dinger. Ellsbury’s blast was a Yankee Stadium special, just barely clearing the short porch in right field. According to ESPN’s Hit Tracker (and based on calculations if the ball had been hit in ideal weather conditions of 70 degrees and no wind), Yankee Stadium is the only ballpark it would have been a home run.

(New York Post)
(New York Post)

Sloppy Seattle, Magnificent Masa
The Yankees’ inability to close out series had become a recurring nightmare … until the Bad News Mariners showed up to Yankee Stadium. Entering this weekend, the Yankees had dropped their previous 11 rubber games — a streak that reached back to early June — and were 5-14 in rubber games overall this season, easily the worst record and most losses of any team. On Sunday afternoon the Yankees took advantage of a historically sloppy Seattle defense to snap that inexplicable streak, en route to a 10-1 victory.

They raced out to an early 6-1 lead thanks to five Mariners errors in the first inning, the most errors committed by one team in a single inning since the Cubs on July 2, 1977 against the Cardinals. If you’re curious, the modern record (since 1900) for the most errors committed in one inning is seven, by the Cleveland Naps against the Chicago White Sox on September 20, 1905.

Thanks to all those free outs, a cavalcade of hits, and some timely at-bats (6 hits with runners in scoring position), the Yankees were able to win without the benefit a homer — an extremely rare win for this power-happy team. It was just their fourth win this season in a game they didn’t go deep, which is now tied with the Tigers for the fewest such wins in the majors.

Masahiro Tanaka made sure the Yankees offensive outburst wouldn’t be wasted as he shut down the Mariners lineup after a shaky first inning. He struck out 10 in seven innings, allowed one run, and has now quietly posted a 2.92 ERA over his last 11 outings. This was also his 100th career start, and with those 10 strikeouts, Tanaka became the first pitcher in franchise history to reach 600 strikeouts in his first 100 major-league games.

8/25 to 8/27 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

Cruz and Seager. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Cruz and Seager. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees visited the Mariners for a four-game set just last month, taking three of four. In doing so they won their first series in over a month, snapping a six week stretch of bad baseball and reminding us just how fun this team could be. Some notes:

  • David Robertson made his Yankees re-debut in the second game of the series, pitching a scoreless seventh inning. He struck out the side on just 13 pitches, with all three strikeouts ending on whiffs. Seeing Robertson back in pinstripes is one of my personal high points of the season.
  • You might remember that second game a bit better as “that time that Aaron Judge broke Statcast.”
  • Didi Gregorius had a heck of a series, going 8-for-15 with a double, two home runs, and two walks. And those two walks represent just under 12% of his total on the season.
  • Brett Gardner hit his 17th home run in the final game of the series, tying his career-high … in his 92nd game of the season. He has added three more since.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more interesting information.

Injury Report

When these teams last met, the Mariners were getting healthy for the first time this year. A month later, and they’re back to being banged-up, with Jarrod Dyson, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Evan Scribner, Drew Smyly, Ryan Weber, and Tony Zych all on the disabled list; none are likely to be back for this series, and Smyly is done for the season, thanks to Tommy John surgery.

It’s also possible that Robinson Cano may not be available this weekend. He left Wednesday’s game after hitting a double (and passing Babe Ruth on the all-time list) with hamstring tightness, and underwent an MRI on Thursday. The Mariners have yet to make any announcement regarding his health or availability as of this writing.

Their Story So Far

The Mariners are currently 65-63, which is good enough to leave them just a game back of the second Wild Card spot. Their -12 run differential suggests that they’ve overachieved a bit, but it’s nevertheless indicative that they’re basically a .500 team. They’ve won six of their last eight, however, and own a 16-12 record since dropping the series to the Yankees.

This is a fairly mediocre team across the board, checking in at 9th in the majors in defensive efficiency, 14th in runs scored, and 18th in runs allowed, and a top-heavy roster. Nelson Cruz is raking as usual (147 wRC+) and James Paxton was in the midst of a breakout season before getting hurt (153 ERA+), but the rest of the team has been largely disappointing. That isn’t to say that solid performers like Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, Robinson Cano, and others have been bad – but injuries and under-performance tell a more accurate story of the majority of the team.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Mariners, check out Lookout Landing.

The Lineup We Might See

The recent acquisition of Yonder Alonso has led to the Mariners shaking up the lineup quite a bit over the last two weeks, as have injuries and returns from injuries. Manager Scott Servais seems content to roll with something like this, though (assuming that Cano is available):

  1. Jean Segura, SS
  2. Yonder Alonso, 1B
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B
  4. Nelson Cruz, DH
  5. Kyle Seager, 3B
  6. Mitch Haniger, RF
  7. Ben Gamel, LF
  8. Guillermo Heredia, CF
  9. Mike Zunino, C

Guillermo Heredia is banged-up, as well. If he ends up sitting, we’ll see Haniger or Gamel move to center, and Danny Valencia man a corner OF spot.

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Ariel Miranda

Miranda started for the Mariners in their lone victory against the Yankees last month, pitching to the following line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K. He has been hard in each of his five subsequent starts, allowing 9 home runs and a 6.84 ERA in 26.1 IP. He has a 4.78 ERA (89 ERA+) on the season, and is tied for the major league lead in home runs allowed, with 31.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 8/19) – 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K

Saturday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo

It may seem impossible, but Gallardo is only 31-years-old. He made his big league debut as a 21-year-old back in 2007, and this is already his ninth season with 20-plus games started. He hasn’t been effective in a couple of years, though, pitching to a 5.58 ERA (76 ER+) since the beginning of last year, and he no longer strikes batters out (6.6 K/9 this year).

Gallardo is a five-pitch pitcher, featuring a low-90s four-seamer, a low-90s sinker, an upper-80s slider, a mid-80s change-up, and a low-80s curveball. There was a time when his slider was a devastating pitch, but he’s hittable across the board these days.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 8/20) – 6.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 6 K

Sunday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Andrew Albers

The Mariners swung a deal for Albers two weeks ago, acquiring him from the Braves for cash considerations. He’s a couple of months older than Gallardo, but he’s only thrown 89.2 IP at the highest level. He was drafted in 2008, but spent 2010 in the independent Canadian-American Association, 2014 in the Korean Baseball Organization, and parts of other seasons out of baseball altogether. It’s an interesting story that reminds of how difficult it is to make it to the show.

Albers is a prototypical crafty lefty, working with a fastball in the upper-80s, a sinker in the mid-to-upper 80s, an upper-70s change-up, an upper-70s slider, and a low-70s curve.

Last Outing (vs. ATL on 8/21) – 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 3 K

The Bullpen

Closer Edwin Diaz has had a disappointing season, with his walk, strikeout, home run, and groundball rates trending heavily in the wrong direction from his dynamite rookie season. He currently has a 3.58 ERA (120 ERA+) in 55.1 IP, and 29 saves in 33 opportunities. Diaz hasn’t been bad by any stretch, but he’s been a serious disappointment.

Nick Vincent and new acquisition (and former Yankee) David Phelps handle the set-up duties, and both have been excellent this season. LOOGY Marc Rzepczynski has been solid in his limited role, too, as has yet another former Yankee, James Pazos. It’s a solid-average bullpen as a whole.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Starlin Castro and Greg Bird hit back-to-back home runs for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last night, and that should be a harbinger of things to come for the Yankees. Starlin Castro is expected to be activated for tonight’s game and, with the strong likelihood of a Gary Sanchez suspension looming, their presence will be much appreciated.

Yankeemetrics: The curse is over (July 20-23)

(AP)
(AP)

Ace Sevy
Back in Pacfic time zone where their current collapse began more than a month ago, the Yankees took the first step towards pulling out of the tailspin with a 4-1 win over the Mariners on Thursday.

If there is one west coast locale where the Yankees might be able to right the ship, it would be Seattle. They entered this series 49-28 all-time at Safeco Field, the best record by any team in the history of the stadium. The Yankees had won six straight series at the park, their longest active road series win streak against an AL club, and hadn’t dropped a series there since 2011.

Luis Severino dazzled in the matchup with Felix Hernandez, outdueling the Mariners longtime ace with seven brilliant shutout innings. It was his seventh start of at least seven innings and no more than one run allowed this season. The only other guys in the majors that matched that number through Thursday were Max Scherzer (7) and Clayton Kershaw (10).

It was also his third scoreless start of at least seven innings, an impressive feat for the 23-year-old pitcher. In the last 50 years, the only other Yankee as young as Severino with three or more scoreless starts of seven-plus innings in a season was Dave Righetti in 1981.

He dominated with a blazing fastball that averaged 98.3 mph, per Statcast, his highest average fastball velocity in any start in his career. Severino also tied his career-high with 10 whiffs on his fastball, and his four-seamer swinging strike rate of 19.6 percent was his highest in any of his 41 major-league starts. As you can see in the chart below, he was bringing the high heat, with all 10 of those swinging fastball strikes coming on pitches above the letters:

severino-whiffs

The hitting hero of the night was Brett Gardner, who broke a scoreless tie in the sixth inning with a solo shot to right field. Gardner finished the night 1-for-3 vs. King Felix, and is now hitting .361 against him, the third-highest batting average among the 53 guys that have faced him at least 40 times. The two ahead of Gardner? Mike Trout (.367) and David Ortiz (.410).

(Getty)
(Getty)

Best birthday present ever
Baseball has its share of small-sample-size statistical quirks and one of the oddest is the fact that CC Sabathia entered Friday’s game 0-3 with a 6.99 ERA in five starts on his birthday.

The baseball gods, though, were in Sabathia’s favor on Friday night as he finally broke his birthday curse against the Mariners. He was in vintage form, grinding through five innings, allowing seven baserunners but yielding just one run. Let’s run through some notable #FunFacts in honor of CC’s sweet birthday victory:

  • first Yankee starter to earn a win on his birthday since Joe Cowley in 1984 against the Mariners
  • first Yankee starter to allow one run or fewer on his birthday since Ron Guidry in 1981
  • And, at age 37, Sabathia is the oldest Yankee pitcher to win on his birthday since a 37-year-old Red Ruffing in 1942

Aaron Judge delivered the best birthday present ever to Sabathia in the fifth inning, when he ended in his 10-game homerless drought in style by clobbering a monstrous homer into the last rows of the upper deck in left field.

It was hit so high, so far … that it broke Statcast, literally, as MLB’s sophisticated measurement system didn’t spit out any numbers for the distance or exit velocity. We do know that the pitch he clobbered was a 76.3 mph curveball, the slowest pitch he’s hit for a home run in his career.

So close, yet so far away
It was too good to be true. Riding an actual winning streak and with a chance to clinch a series win on Saturday night, the Yankees got stung with another frustrating loss in Seattle. They rallied twice — erasing 4-1 and 5-4 deficits to tie the game — but never were able to take the lead, and lost 6-5 in heart-breaking fashion on Nelson Cruz’s game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 10th.

Let’s dig deeper into this recent stretch of excruciating late-inning close losses:

The Yankees fell to 9-19 in games decided by one run, the second-worst record in the Majors and tied for the second-most losses through Saturday. The only team worse in both stats is the Phillies at 11-26. Fifteen of those 19 losses have come on the road, and an unfathomable 14 of them have been against teams with a .500 record or worse — a number that leads all of MLB after Saturday’s slate.

And, of course, the one-run losses have really been piling up over the last two months. They’ve lost 14 of their last 16 games decided by a run dating back to May 29 — so, after some quick math, they were 7-5 in one-run games for the first two months of the season and are 2-14 over the last two months.

Saturday was their fifth walk-off loss, one more than last year. All five have come since June 13, the most suffered by any team in that span. And three have been on the west coast, one each in Seattle, Anaheim and Oakland. Strange but true: this is just the second time ever they’ve lost walk-off games to each of them in the same season (it also happened in 2006).

Even in the depressing loss, Aaron Judge was still doing Aaron Judge things. He crushed a 396-foot home run to right field, showing off his ridiculous oppo-field power. Ridiculous is actually an understatement. After Saturday’s game, he was slugging 1.140 to the opposite field, easily the highest in baseball among qualified hitters. For reference, the league slugging percentage on balls hit to the opposite field is .474. Holy moly, what a beautiful hit spray chart:

aaron-judge-3

Streaks are meant to be broken
See yaaaaaaa …. The Yankees finally ended their torturous month-plus baseball nightmare and won their first series since June 9-11. They snapped a 10-series winless streak, their longest since August/September 1991, just weeks before Stump Merrill was fired.

And thankfully I don’t have to tweet this stat again:

Brett Gardner got the offensive fireworks started early with his third leadoff homer of the season, and you could almost smell a victory dance … entering Sunday, the Yankees were 13-0 when Gardy went yardy. Didi Gregorius added two solo dingers for his first career multi-homer game, putting the Yankees up 3-0.

#FunFact alert: Didi is the first Yankee shortstop to hit two or more homers against the Mariners.

(Getty)
(Getty)

The Mariners soon erased that lead, but the Comeback Kids struck again. Unlike Saturday, this time they were able to complete the rally. Clint Frazier‘s bases-loaded double in the sixth inning broke a 4-4 tie and made sure the Yankees plane ride back east would be a happy one.

That was Frazier’s second go-ahead hit in the sixth inning or later this season, or two more than Jacoby Ellsbury has in 2017. Following Sunday’s game, Frazier now has 11 extra-base hits in 61 at-bats this season, or just two fewer than Ellsbury has in 197 at-bats.

Thanks to his game-winning two-base hit, Frazier also earns our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series: He has a double in three straight games, the youngest Yankee outfielder to do that since Mickey Mantle in 1953.

7/20 to 7/23 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

(Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
(Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The Yankees have played staggeringly mediocre baseball since the All-Star break, splitting a four-game set with the Red Sox and dropping two of three to the Twins. Their lead for the second Wild Card spot stands at just half a game as a result, so the reinforcements could not have come at a much better time. Unfortunately, our first extended look at Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle, and David Robertson will come on West Coast time, as the Yankees visit Seattle for four games.

The Last Time They Met

It has been almost a year since the Yankees faced the Mariners, as the two teams last met in August of 2016. The Yankees took two of three by a combined score of 15-8, moving to 66-61 in the process. Some notes from the series:

  • Gary Sanchez and Starlin Castro hit two home runs apiece in the first game, but it wasn’t enough as they lost 7-5. Anthony Swarzak took the loss and a blown save that day, allowing two inherited runners to score on a three-run home run by Mike Zunino. And, no, going with Swarzak didn’t make much sense at the time, either.
  • Sanchez was at the height of his August powers in that series, going 6 for 11 with 3 HR, 3 BB, and 0 K.
  • CC Sabathia had one of the best starts of his season in the second game, going 7 strong and allowing 3 hits, 1 run, and 1 walk, while striking out 7.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun facts.

Injury Report

The Mariners have battled the injury bug all year, with key players like Jean Segura, James Paxton, Mitch Haniger, Felix Hernandez, Drew Smyly, and Hisashi Iwakuma all spending time on the disabled list. They’re approaching full strength, but Smyly is done for the year, and there’s no real timetable for Iwakuma’s return.

Their Story So Far

Seattle is essentially the perfect .500 team – they’re 48-48 with a +1 run differential. They’re 5-1 since the break, which includes a series victory over the Astros this week. The Mariners offense has been the driving force behind the team’s limited success, and it currently ranks 6th in the majors in wRC+ and 8th in runs scored. They currently have 8 regulars or semi-regulars with a wRC+ of 100 or better, and their back-up catcher (93 wRC+) and fourth OF (90 wRC+) aren’t all that bad, either. In short, their lineup is almost always strong from top to bottom.

Their starting pitching has been less than stellar, though. Paxton has performed like a top of the rotation starter when healthy, with a 3.05 ERA (132 ERA+), 10.3 K/9, and 3.0 BB/9 in 94.1 IP. The pickings are fairly slim after that, with a mishmosh of average to well below-average guys making up the rest of the rotation. The declining Hernandez is their second-best starter right now, and he’s sitting on a 4.20 ERA (101 ERA+) in 55.2 IP, for comparison’s sake, and the group as a whole has a 4.79 ERA – good for 22nd in baseball.

For more on the Mariners, I recommend checking out Lookout Landing.

The Lineup We Might See

Injuries have force manager Scott Servais to tinker with his lineup quite a bit, but he seems to prefer this configuration when everyone’s available:

  1. Jean Segura, SS
  2. Ben Gamel, LF
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B
  4. Nelson Cruz, DH
  5. Kyle Seager, 3B
  6. Danny Valencia, 1B
  7. Mitch Haniger, RF
  8. Jarrod Dyson, CF
  9. Mike Zunino, C

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Thursday (10:10 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Felix Hernandez

Three years ago, Felix Hernandez was one of the best pitchers in baseball. Two years ago, he saw a dip in velocity, and an overall drop-off in production, but remained comfortably above-average. Last year, his velocity backed-up again, and his numbers slipped even further into average territory (and his 4.63 FIP suggested that he was actually lucky). And this year, he’s simply rather average. His strikeouts and walks went in the right direction, but he’s more hittable and more gopher-ball prone than ever before, and his fastball no longer has much bite to it. This is what a decline looks like.

Hernandez focuses on four pitches nowadays – a low-90s fastball, a low-90s sinker, a mid-80s change-up, and a low-80s curve. He’ll mix in a mid-80s slider, as well, but that is oftentimes shelved unless something else isn’t working.

Last Outing (vs. CHW on 7/15) – 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 5 K

Friday (10:10 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Andrew Moore

The 23-year-old Moore was a second-round pick back in 2015, and he made his big league debut last month, going 7 IP and allowing 3 ER in a victory over the Tigers. His scouting report isn’t terribly exciting, as he’s a command/control type with a back-of-the-rotation ceiling, but he also qualifies as a “high floor” type due to his ability to limit walks and soak innings. It’s not a sexy profile by any stretch, but it feels an awful lot like the type of rookie that has plagued the Yankees in years past.

Moore is a four-pitch guy, with a low-90s fastball, low-80s slider, low-80s change-up, and mid-70s curveball. He’s earned praise for his change-up, which I’ve seen graded as high as a 60 on the 20-80 scale.

Last Outing (vs. CHW on 7/16) – 3.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 0 BB, 1 K

Saturday (9:10 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Ariel Miranda

The Mariners acquired Miranda at last year’s trade deadline in a straight-up swap for Wade Miley, and it has paid dividends thus far. The 28-year-old Cuban has thrown 165.2 IP in 30 games for the Mariners, posting a 4.07 ERA (100 ERA+) along the way. His underlying numbers aren’t awe-inspiring (6.9 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 5.30 FIP), but he’s managed to stay healthy and mostly effective this year (97 ERA+), which is a boon for a team that has needed 13 starting pitchers already.

Miranda mostly utilizes three pitches – a low-90s fastball, a mid-80s change-up, and a low-80s splitter. That splitter is his best pitch, with a whiff rate just shy of 20%, and a batting average against of just .190.

Last Outing (vs. HOU on 7/17) – 5.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 4 K

Sunday (4:10 PM EST): RHP Luis Cessa vs. RHP Sam Gaviglio

The 27-year-old Gaviglio is the second rookie the Yankees will face this weekend, having made his debut on May 11. He was a fifth round pick way back in 2011, and his journey to the show may best be described as methodical – he spent three years bouncing between Double-A and Triple-A, and always seemed to be the “next guy up;” it just took a long time for that need to arise.

Gaviglio is a pure junkballer. His fastball tops out in the upper 80s, and he complements it with a low-80s slider, low-80s change-up, and a curve in the upper-80s. His margin for error is razor thin, as his strikeout rate is a well below average 15.4%.

Last Outing (vs. HOU on 7/18) – 6.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 3 K

The Bullpen

The Mariners bullpen has been right around average in most respects this year, with its ERA, K%, BB%, and WPA all falling between 13th and 20th in the majors. That might be a bit misleading, though, as the bullpen’s overall numbers are dragged down by folk that are primarily used in mop-up situations. Edwin Diaz has been solid as the closer (134 ERA+, 12.9 K/9, 3.9 BB/9), and the late-innings trio of Nick Vincent, Tony Zych, and Steve Cishek is formidable. They also have Marc Rzepcyznski in a traditional LOOGY role – LHH are batting .171/.227/.244 in 45 PA against him this year.

It is worth noting that the bullpen has been stretched thin since the break. They’ve been called upon for 22.1 IP in six games, and Diaz and Vincent were both needed yesterday.

Yankees Connection

It’s all but guaranteed that we will see three former Yankees during this series. Seeing Robinson Cano in another uniform still saddens me, and I’ll have to suffer him starting everyday against the Yankees. I don’t think we need to recap his fantastic career in pinstripes.

Ben Gamel was a 10th round pick by the Yankees in 2010, and he was in the organization up through last August, when he was sent to the Mariners for Juan De Paula and Jio Orozco. It was a roster crunch that made sense at the time (and still does), but Gamel has done his damnedest to make Cashman and Co. look bad. He’s batting .319/.373/.444 (125 wRC+) with 5 HR and 3 SB in 309 PA as a regular in LF/RF, and he has shown no signs of slowing down.

And old friend James Pazos is there, too. He was drafted by the Yankees in 2012, and he tossed 8.1 subpar IP (84 ERA+, 1.50 K/BB) for the team between 2015 and 2016. He was dealt to the Mariners for Zack Littell this off-season, and he’s been very effective in their bullpen this year, with a 124 ERA+ in 36.2 IP. Littell, for his part, has been awesome in the Yankees system – he has a 1.71 ERA in 105.1 IP between High-A and Double-A.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Ben Gamel’s flowing locks.

Potential trade partners for Brett Gardner dwindling due to hot stove activity

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees right now are very much open to trading pricey veterans for prospects. They sold big time at the deadline and continued selling in the offseason by sending Brian McCann to the Astros for two Single-A pitching prospects. The Yankees have reportedly dangled Brett Gardner and Chase Headley in trade talks this winter, and I’m sure they’d love to move Jacoby Ellsbury too, but, you know.

Two teams that stood out as obvious suitors for Gardner addressed their outfield needs last week. The Nationals traded for Adam Eaton and the Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler. Both clubs needed a defensively competent center fielder — Gardner plays left for the Yankees in deference to Ellsbury, but he could still handle center full-time, no problem — and a top of the order on-base guy. The Nats and Cards went in another direction.

Gardner is a good player, not a great one, and the two years and $23M left on his contract is not unreasonable. And besides, the Yankees have shown a willingness to eat money to facilitate trades. They did it with Carlos Beltran at the deadline and McCann a few weeks ago. Salary shouldn’t be a problem. The problem is finding a team that actually needs Gardner, a defense first outfielder with on-base skills. Here are the remaining potential trade partners I came up with.

Baltimore Orioles

Adam Jones needs some help. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Adam Jones needs some help. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Current Outfield: Adam Jones in center and Hyun-Soo Kim in left, with Joey Rickard and Rule 5 Draft picks Anthony Santander and Aneury Tavarez candidates for right. They also have the option of moving Chris Davis to right field and playing prospect Trey Mancini at first.

Why Would They Want Gardner? He’s a heck of a lot better than Rickard and the Rule 5 Draft kids — Santander has never played above High-A — and he’d give the O’s a legitimate leadoff hitter, something they really lack. Jones was their leadoff hitter most of this past season. Yeah. Also, the Orioles have an opening at DH, remember. They could put Gardner in left, Kim at DH (where he fits best), and stick with the kids in right.

So Are They A Fit? Yes with the caveat that they’re an AL East rival, and intradivision trades are rare. I don’t think that closes the door completely, it just makes it unlikely. For what it’s worth, Brian Cashman told Bryan Hoch he’d have no problem trading with the Orioles.

“If I can trade with the Red Sox and the Mets, I can trade with the Orioles. I can trade with anybody. If it’s in our best interest, whether it’s short- or long-term, it doesn’t matter what the other teams get. Does it make sense for us? If it happens to be them, I don’t really care.”

What do the O’s have to offer the Yankees for Gardner? Geez, beats me. Their farm system isn’t in great shape (here’s their MLB.com top 30 prospects list) and I doubt they’d be willing to give up pieces from their big league roster. I’m sure the Yankees could find some combination of minor leaguers to make it work though.

Cleveland Indians

Current Outfield: Tyler Naquin in center and Lonnie Chisenhall in right. Brandon Guyer and Abe Almonte are expected to hold down left field until Michael Brantley returns from shoulder surgery.

Why Would They Want Gardner? Not too many reasons at this point. The Indians seem focused on adding a big middle of the order bat to share first base and DH with Carlos Santana, and I suppose if those plans go awry, they could circle back and import Gardner to be part of a rotating DH system. He’d give them a more traditional leadoff hitter too. They used Santana at leadoff most of last season, which was somewhat a waste of his power because he batted with fewer men on base.

So Are They A Fit? Nah, I don’t think so. Naquin had a nightmare postseason but a very good regular season, good enough to finish third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting and earn a starting spot in 2017. They’ll ride it out with Almonte and Guyer until Brantley returns, which could be as soon as April.

Detroit Tigers

Current Outfield: Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez on the corners, with Anthony Gose and JaCoby Jones in the mix for center. Tyler Collins could get a crack at the job too, though he’s best in a corner.

Why Would They Want Gardner? Gardner is much better than the group of players vying for Detroit’s center field job at the moment. Of course, the Tigers traded away Cameron Maybin earlier this winter, and they seem to be scaling back on payroll a bit. Salary dumping Maybin only to turn around and acquire Gardner would be a bit weird, don’t you think?

Of course, plans change, and the Tigers are looking at a more winnable AL Central right now. The Twins stink, the White Sox are selling, and the Royals might have to sell at the deadline since basically their entire core will hit free agency next winter. The Tigers won 86 games in 2016 despite going 4-14 (4-14!) against the Indians. What are the odds of that happening again? Small. Gardner would improve their chances in a much more winnable division.

So Are They A Fit? Maybe! I think the Yankees would have to eat money to make a trade happen, which I doubt would be a deal-breaker. If the Yankees ate money to trade Beltran and McCann, I’m sure they’d do the same for Gardner.

Oakland Athletics

Jake Smolinski was the A's everyday center fielder in the second half. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)
Jake Smolinski was the A’s everyday center fielder in the second half. For reals. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)

Current Outfield: Some combination of Khris Davis, Matt Joyce, Brett Eibner, and Jake Smolinski. Did you know Khris Davis hit 42 home runs in 2016? True story.

Why Would They Want Gardner? The A’s are in the market for a center fielder this offseason, it’s been reported everywhere, and they’ve most recently been connected to Jarrod Dyson of the Royals. Gardner is a very similar player (lefty hitting leadoff type with speed and defense) who happens to be much more expensive. But again, if the Yankees are willing to eat money, his contract may not be an obstacle.

So Are They A Fit? Maybe. The Athletics are a weird team that seems to be stuck between going for it and rebuilding. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they traded for an outfielder making $23M over the next two years despite losing at least 93 games the last two seasons. They’re weird like that.

San Francisco Giants

Current Outfield: Denard Span in center and Hunter Pence in right, with Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker slated to platoon in left. Gorkys Hernandez has a leg up on a bench job.

Why Would They Want Gardner? Left field is wide open. Williamson and Parker did an okay job as platoon partners while Pence was on the disabled list this summer — they hit a combined .230/.338/.402 with eleven homers in 278 plate appearances in 2016, but also struck out 28.5% of the time — though neither is a long-term building block. Williamson is the young one at 26. Parker turns 28 in three weeks.

Gardner would, at a minimum, give the Giants an above-average defender for that spacious left field at AT&T Park. In also guessing he’d outproduce a Williamson/Parker platoon at the plate over a full 162-game season. The Mark Melancon signing pushed San Francisco over the luxury tax threshold and they don’t want to go much higher, so Gardner’s contract could be an issue. Then again, the Giants are built to win right now, while Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner are still in their primes, and left field is a sore spot.

So Are They A Fit? Yes, definitely. The Giants have enough prospects to cobble together a trade package (here is their MLB.com top 30 prospects list) and the Yankees could eat money to make things work on San Francisco’s end with regards to the luxury tax. The Giants are a fit. A great fit. No doubt.

Seattle Mariners

Current Outfield: Leonys Martin in the middle with some combination of Seth Smith, Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia, Mitch Haniger, and possibly even Danny Valencia in the corners.

Why Would They Want Gardner? As an alternative to that hodgepodge of platoon veterans and mid-range prospects slated for the corners. The Mariners are trying to win right now. I mean, they should be. Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz aren’t going to be this productive forever, so anything Seattle can do to improve their short-term chances qualifies as a good move in my book. Gardner represents an upgrade.

So Are They A Fit? Yes in theory, no in reality. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has said his team is too left-handed at the moment, which Gardner would only exacerbate. Also, they seem committed to playing those kids in the outfield. So while there is a fit on paper here, I don’t see it happening.

Texas Rangers

Mystery Rangers outfielder. (Rick Yeatts/Getty)
Mystery Rangers outfielder. (Rick Yeatts/Getty)

Current Outfield: Carlos Gomez in center, Shin-Soo Choo in right, and Nomar Mazara in left. Delino DeShields Jr. and Ryan Rua are the depth options.

Why Would They Want Gardner? The Rangers have no first baseman or designated hitter at the moment. Adding Gardner would allow them to slide Mazara over to right field, his natural position, and put Choo at DH full-time, which is where he belongs at this point. Texas has money and prospects to trade, plus an obvious opening for Gardner in the lineup and on the field.

So Are They A Fit? Yes. Whether the Rangers are willing to make a trade is another matter. They may prefer to hang on to their prospects and address those first base and DH openings through free agency. There are still plenty of those players available.

Toronto Blue Jays

Current Outfield: lol

Why Would They Want Gardner? Kevin Pillar is still the center fielder. That much is clear. But after losing out on Fowler, the Blue Jays have Melvin Upton, Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, and Dalton Pompey penciled in as their corner outfielders. That might be the worst outfield unit in baseball. Gardner would give them a legitimate left fielder and leadoff hitter, allowing them to slide Devon Travis lower in the order, in a run producing spot. That would be a big help considering they effectively replaced Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista with Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce. I’m sure that’ll work out fine.

So Are They A Fit? Yes in the same way the Orioles are a fit. The Blue Jays could use Gardner, for sure, but to get him, they’d have to swing a rare intradivision trade. It’s not impossible. Just really tough to do. There’s a reason you don’t see them often. Everyone’s afraid of losing a trade to a division rival.

Ben Gamel traded to Mariners for two pitching prospects

(Photo via @SWBRailRiders)
(Photo via @SWBRailRiders)

The Yankees have started to clear up their outfield logjam. Ben Gamel has been traded to the Mariners for right-handed pitching prospects Juan DePaula and Jio Orozco, both teams have announced. Gamel either cleared trade waivers at some point this month, or was claimed by the Mariners this week.

Just yesterday Gamel was named International League MVP after hitting .308/.365/.420 (125 wRC+) with six home runs and 19 steals in 116 games for Triple-A Scranton. The Yankees have a ton of left-handed hitting outfielders and something had to give. Mason Williams and Jake Cave are at Triple-A too, and Dustin Fowler and Billy McKinney are next in line at Double-A.

Orozco, 19, is the better of the two prospects coming to the Yankees. Seattle was able to buy him away from Arizona as their 14th round pick in the 2015 draft. Orozco has a 4.07 ERA (3.51 FIP) with a 29.3% strikeout rate and a 7.4% walk rate in 48.2 rookie ball innings this year. MLB.com ranked him as the 19th best prospect in the Mariners’ system. Here’s a snippet of their scouting report:

His fluid arm action and clean delivery allow him to pitch to both sides of the plate with his 91-94 mph fastball, while his extension through the ball gives it some sinking action. Orozco’s curveball has above-average potential, thrown from an over-the-top slot with good arm speed, creating a 12-to-6 shape with depth, and he also shows good feel for a changeup, giving him the chance for three average-or-better offerings … Beyond the stuff, Orozco’s overall feel for pitching sets him apart from most pitchers his age.

The 18-year-old DePaula has a 3.07 ERA (2.98 FIP) with a 30.6% strikeout rate and a 6.4% walk rate in 41 rookie ball innings this season. He did not rank among MLB.com’s top 30 Mariners prospects, though Baseball America did have him 29th in Seattle’s system in their 2016 Prospect Handbook. Here’s what Baseball America had to say about DePaula:

De Paula was throwing in the mid-80s when he signed, peaking at 87 mph, but in his complete game he was still throwing 93 mph in the ninth inning. De Paula is a strike thrower even with his extra velocity, and he’s starting to grow into his lanky frame. He has a solid feel for his age with his ability to mix his fastball, curveball and changeup, and the Mariners are impressed by his early velocity gains. He has a clean arm, and aside from his youth, his biggest issue appears to be the development of his curveball.

For all his Triple-A success, Gamel’s trade value was limited. You needn’t look beyond last year’s Ramon Flores trade for evidence. Flores, a very similar lefty hitting Triple-A outfielder, landed the Yankees half a Dustin Ackley at last year’s trade deadline. They had to send another prospect (Jose Ramirez) to the Mariners to complete that trade.

The Yankees have a ton of depth at Gamel’s position and they still do, really. Rather than sit on the depth and do nothing with it, they sold high on Gamel — how much higher can you get than the day after he wins IL MVP? — and turned him into two interesting lower level pitching prospects. The move also clears a 40-man roster spot, which is kind of a big deal. The Yankees have a big crunch coming.

8/22 to 8/24 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The West Coast road trip continues with three games in Seattle. This is a pretty huge series, you know. The Yankees are still trying to gain ground in the wildcard race and the Mariners are one of the five teams ahead of them. (Yes, five.) This series is a big chance to make up ground. The Yankees dropped two of three to the Mariners in Yankee Stadium way back in April. That was the fourth series of 2016.

What Have They Done Lately?

Things were going well for the Mariners until yesterday. They won 12 of their previous 15 games before blowing a three-run lead in the ninth inning Sunday afternoon. The bullpen gave up four runs to the rebuilding Brewers. Ouch. The Mariners are 66-57 with a +51 run differential overall. They’re six games back of the Rangers in the AL West and one game back of the Orioles for the second wildcard spot.

Offense & Defense

The Mariners are, for the first time in a long time, a really good offensive team. They’re averaging 4.71 runs per game with a team 108 wRC+. They also rank third in baseball with 172 home runs. How about that? The M’s are generally healthy as well. The only injured position player is backup C Steve Clevinger — he’s the guy they got from the Orioles for Mark Trumbo (oops) — who is out with broken hand. They don’t even miss him. Clevinger won’t be back this series.

Cruz. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Cruz. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Seattle hits all those homers thanks largely to their 3-4-5 hitters: 2B Robinson Cano (136 wRC+), DH Nelson Cruz (147 wRC+), and 3B Kyle Seager (138 wRC+). Those three can all mash. Lately LF Nori Aoki (90 wRC+) and UTIL Shawn O’Malley (92 wRC+) have been platooning in left field and the leadoff spot. OF Franklin Gutierrez (108 wRC+) and RF Seth Smith (111 wRC+) have been platooning in right field and the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Those guys generally make up the top of the lineup.

1B Adam Lind (90 wRC+) and UTIL Stefan Romero (48 wRC+) have been platooning at first base lately. Lind always seems to crush the Yankees, doesn’t he? C Mike Zunino (191 wRC+) and C Chris Iannetta (83 wRC+) share catching duties. SS Ketel Marte (71 wRC+) and CF Leonys Martin (93 wRC+) are the other regulars. The Mariners really put their bench to use. They have platoons in two of the three outfield spots, at first base, and behind the plate. There are no dead roster spots here.

Defensively, the Mariners are very good in center field and the three non-first base infield positions. Behind the plate as well. Iannetta and Zunino are both really good. The corner outfield spots and first base are sore spots regardless of who’s out there on a given day. Well, I shouldn’t say that. O’Malley is pretty good. The other guys are liabilities.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (10:10pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Cody Martin (No vs. NYY)
Martin, 26, went from the Braves to the Athletics to the Mariners in cash trades last year. He’s spent most of this season in Triple-A, where he has a 3.93 ERA (3.59 FIP) with good strikeout (23.2%) and walk (7.0%) rates in 103 innings. Martin has allowed five runs in 14.1 big league innings since being called up, striking out seven and walking three. Lefties have clobbered him (1.103 OPS) in very limited time. This season Martin is averaging about 89 mph with his four-seam fastball and a tick below that with his cutter, so he’s not a hard-thrower. A mid-70s curveball is his go-to secondary pitch, and he’ll also mix in some low-80s changeups. This isn’t someone who will blow hitters away.

Tuesday (10:10pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. SEA) vs. TBA
The Mariners have not yet announced tomorrow’s starter as of this writing, though the expectation is young right-hander Taijuan Walker will be called up from Triple-A. The 24-year-old has had a rocky 2016 season (4.10 ERA and 4.88 FIP in 90 innings) and he’s also missed time with a foot injury. The team sent him down earlier this month to work on things. Before being sent down, Walker had very good strikeout (21.2%) and walk (5.3%) rates, but he didn’t get grounders (43.0%) or keep the ball in the park (1.90 HR/9). Righties have had more success against him than lefties, though in the past he had a tiny platoon split. Walker sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and he throws it a ton, often more than 70% of the time within a start. An upper-80s splitter is his primary offspeed pitch. He’ll also throw an upper-80s cutter and a mid-70s curveball. The Yankees did not face Walker when these two clubs met earlier this season.

Walker. (Scott Halleran/Getty)
Walker. (Scott Halleran/Getty)

If Walker does not start for some reason — the Mariners could decide he needs more work in the minors — then chances are ex-Yankee lefty Wade LeBlanc would get the ball. He has a 4.72 ERA (6.02 FIP) in 47.2 innings with Seattle this season. LeBlanc would be on three days’ rest tomorrow. The French David Huff threw 91 pitches Friday.

Wednesday (3:40pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (vs. NYY)
Last year Tanaka and Iwakuma became the first former NPB teammates to face each other in the big leagues. The two spent the 2007-11 seasons together with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. They’ll get a chance to face each other again later this week. That’s pretty cool. Iwakuma, 35, has a 3.78 ERA (4.21 FIP) in 25 starts and 157 innings this season, so he’s been rock solid as usual. His strikeouts (17.6%) and grounders (36.4%) are down, but he makes up for it by limiting walks (5.2%). Homers (1.26 HR/9) are an issue, but that’s been the case since the day he arrived in the big leagues. Iwakuma has a tiny platoon split because his knockout mid-80s splitter is a true equalizer. He sets it up with upper-80s four-seamers and sinkers, and he’ll also mix in a few low-80s sliders and low-70s curves. Iwakuma is definitely not a power pitcher. The Yankees scored four runs against him in seven innings back in April.

Bullpen Status

The Mariners have completely overhauled their bullpen through a combination of trades, signings, and call-ups this season. They have a new closer, a new setup man, and two new middle relievers. Here is the bullpen Servais is working with these days:

Closer: RHP Edwin Diaz (2.31 ERA/1.83 FIP)
Setup: RHP Arquimedes Caminero (3.35/4.38), RHP Steve Cishek (3.33/3.89)
Middle: RHP Drew Storen (5.77/4.80), RHP Tom Wilhelmsen (7.20/6.45), RHP Nick Vincent (4.01/4.32)
Long: LHP Vidal Nuno (2.76/3.91)

Cishek started the year as closer but has since lost the job. He, Vincent, and Nuno are the only holdovers from the Opening Day bullpen. Diaz was called up at midseason and is basically their Dellin Betances. He’s struck out 43.3% of the batters he’s faced as a big leaguer. Crazy. Caminero and Storen came over in minor trades and Wilhelmsen was signed after being released by the Rangers. Seattle traded him for Martin in the offseason.

Servais had to dip deep into his bullpen yesterday. Cishek (three pitches), Vincent (nine pitches), Caminero (16 pitches), Wilhelmsen (22 pitches), and Nuno (23 pitches) all pitched yesterday afternoon. Only Cishek pitched both Saturday and Sunday, however. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen.