7/29 to 7/31 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

(Getty)
(Getty)

Time for the final series before the trade deadline. The Yankees have already made one huge move by sending Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs. Will they do anything else before Monday? My guess is yes. This group could look a lot different in a few days. The Yankees are in Tampa for three games against the Rays this weekend, by the way.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rays just wrapped up a West Coast trip in which they won four of nine games. They lost four of the final five games on the trip though. Tampa’s season completely raveled in mid-June. They were 31-32 on the morning of June 16th, and since then they’ve lost 29 of 37 games. Woof. No other team has lost more than 22 games since June 16th. The Rays are 39-61 with a -57 run differential overall. Only the Twins and the ain’t even tryin’ Braves have a worse record this season. The Yankees won two of three both times these clubs met earlier this season, including a series at Tropicana Field in late-May.

Offense & Defense

The Rays aren’t good at anything. Seriously. Below-average all the way around, even their vaunted pitching staff. Tampa is averaging only 3.95 runs per game with a team 96 wRC+. They have a 58 wRC+ as a team in high-leverage spots. Good gravy. The Rays are without OF Desmond Jennings (hamstring) and OF Mikie Mahtook (hand). Neither is expected back this series.

Miller. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Miller. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Manager Kevin Cash stacks the top of the lineup the same way pretty much every game: 2B Logan Forsythe (113 wRC+) leads off, SS Brad Miller (104 wRC+) bats second, and 3B Evan Longoria (135 wRC+) bats third. Longoria’s power has come back this year, it seems. He’s hit 23 homers in 98 games this season after hitting 22 and 21 homers the last two years. DH/OF Corey Dickerson (93 wRC+), UTIL Steve Pearce (147 wRC+), and 1B Logan Morrison (85 wRC+) occupy the rest of the middle of the order.

CF Kevin Kiermaier (90 wRC+) and RF Steven Souza (88 wRC+) are the other notable regulars. OF Oswaldo Arcia (87 wRC+) and OF Brandon Guyer (110 wRC+) get platoon duty while C Curt Casali (54 wRC+) is the primary catcher. C Luke Maille (30 wRC+) is the backup. IF Tim Beckham (93 wRC+), the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, is finally carving out a role as a part-time player. Imagine if the Rays had taken Buster Posey, the consensus top prospect in the 2008 draft, instead of Beckham. Everything would be different.

Tampa is not a good defensive team. In fact, that’s partially by design. They accepted defensive downgrades at first (Morrison) and short (Miller) as well as behind the plate (Casali) in an effort to add offense. It hasn’t really worked. Kiermaier is an outstanding defender in center and Longoria’s really good too. Souza and Forsythe are fine. That’s about all there is to say about that. Miller has a knack for hilarious errors, just FYI.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:10pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. TB) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (vs. NYY)
Two pitchers reportedly on the trade block will be on the mound tonight. Unless they’re traded within the next few hours, of course. Odorizzi, 26, has a 4.10 ERA (4.14 FIP) in 21 starts and 118.2 innings so far this season. His strikeout (22.5%), walk (7.2%), and grounder (37.2%) rates are the same as always, though he has been more homer prone (1.37 HR/9) this year than in the past. Odorizzi has a pretty big reverse split this year, which is not unusual for him. His best pitch is a nasty mid-80s splitter, which he uses to neutralize lefties. A low-to-mid-90s four-seamer sets it up. Odorizzi also throws a mid-80s cutter/slider hybrid and a soft low-70s curve. The Yankees have seen Odorizzi once before this season, when he flirted with a no-hitter. Starlin Castro ended up hitting a two-run bomb to spoil things. The Yankees won that game despite being one-hit.

Saturday (6:10pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. TB) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (vs. NYY)
It’s probably not a good thing when you trade a legitimate ace and two years later the main piece in the return has a 5.42 ERA (4.44 FIP) in 19 starts and 111.1 innings. The 27-year-old Smyly has battled injuries and inconsistency since coming over in the David Price deal, and this summer he’s been both fly ball (32.4%) and homer (1.70 HR/9) prone. His strikeout (23.5%) and walk (6.3%) rates are good though. Both lefties and righties have hit him hard this season. Smyly is a four-pitch southpaw, using a low-90s four-seamer and a mid-80s cutter to set up his low-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. The Yankees saw Smyly back in April and, naturally, he held them to one run in seven innings.

Babyface Snell. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Babyface Snell. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Sunday (1:10pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TB) vs. LHP Blake Snell (vs. NYY)
Coming into the season the 23-year-old Snell was one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. The Rays selected him years ago with the compensation pick they received for losing Brad Hawpe (!) as a free agent. That was back in the old Type-A/B free agent days. Snell has a 3.05 ERA (3.12 FIP) in eight big league starts and 44.1 innings. His walk rate (11.4%) is a tad high and his strikeout (20.7%) and grounder (42.2%) rates are close to average. He hasn’t given up many homers at all (0.20 HR/9) and his platoon split is negligible. Snell sits in the mid-90s with his heater, and his array of offspeed pitches includes a mid-80s changeup, a low-80s slider, and an upper-70s curveball. He uses each of his three offspeed pitches at least 12% of the time too, so he throws everything. The Yankees saw Snell back in April — that was his MLB debut — and scored just one run in five innings.

Bullpen Status

The Rays have a bullpen with relievers in it. Some are good, some are bad. Their closer was an All-Star because the rules say the Rays needed an All-Star. That about sums up the state of Cash’s relief crew. Boring. Generic. Here’s the bullpen.

Closer: RHP Alex Colome (2.27 ERA/3.17 FIP)
Setup: LHP Xavier Cedeno (3.62/2.40), RHP Erasmo Ramirez (3.90/3.56)
Middle: RHP Kevin Jepsen (5.77/5.44), LHP Enny Romero (5.58/5.16)
Long: RHP Matt Andriese (2.70/2.91), RHP Dylan Floro (4.15/2.56)

Jepsen couldn’t get anyone out when we saw him in Minnesota a few weeks back. He’s since managed to land in Tampa. Romero throws very hard and Erasmo is kind of a multi-inning fireman reliever. Cash is pretty creative with him. Cedeno is a true left-on-left matchup guy who Cash uses for full innings for some reason. I dunno.

Like the Yankees, the Rays had an off-day yesterday. They were coming back from their West Coast and the rules say you have to have an off-day when flying west to east. Their bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get. Same with the Yankees, but check out our Bullpen Workload page anyway.

Yankeemetrics: A Ray of Hope [May 27-29]

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Super Hiro
A couple veteran sluggers made sure that the Yankees wouldn’t waste another pitching gem in Friday night’s series opener at Tampa Bay. Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran both homered in support of another brilliant performance by Masahiro Tanaka, leading the Bronx Bombers to a 4-1 win over the Rays.

Tanaka took a perfect game into the fifth inning, allowing just two hits and no walks over seven scoreless innings. He is now 3-0 in 10 starts this season, the first Yankee pitcher with a double-digit streak of unbeaten starts to begin a season since Orlando Hernandez in 2004.

Tanaka continued his dominance away from Yankee Stadium, delivering his third straight road outing of at least seven innings, one run or fewer and no more than five hits allowed. The last Yankee with a streak like that was Mike Mussina in August 2003. He lowered his road ERA to 1.34, the best in the American League through Friday’s games (min. 15 IP).

The 27-year-old right-hander was brilliant in finishing off hitters, as the Rays went 0-for-11 in two-strike counts with four strikeouts. Tampa Bay’s left-handed bats were also held in check by Tanaka, going 0-for-10 and hit just one ball out of the infield (a fly out by Corey Dickerson in the fifth inning).

A-Rod and Beltran supplied the offensive fireworks needed for the win, becoming the first set of Yankee teammates age 39 or older to homer in the same game, and the 21st pair overall to achieve that feat. The most recent guys to do it were Frank Thomas and Matt Stairs for the Blue Jays on June 23, 2007, and the first guys were Ty Cobb and Zack Wheat for the Philadelphia A’s on July 15, 1927.

The 6-foot-7 elephant in the room
Saturday’s game went pretty much as predicted given that Michael Pineda was listed as the starting pitcher for the Yankees. The big righty gave up a bunch of first-inning runs and was hit hard all afternoon, adding another ugly pitching line to his ledger, and the Yankees lost to the Rays.

(Getty  Images)
(Getty Images)

Pineda added three more runs and four hits to his league-leading totals in the first inning, which now stand at 16 runs and 26 hits. His 14.40 first-inning ERA would easily be the highest single-season mark by any Yankee that started more than five games.

It was also his fourth game with at least six earned runs allowed this season, the most by any pitcher in the majors through Saturday’s slate. The only other Yankee in the last 60 seasons to have four such games this early into the schedule (through 48 team games) was Terry Mulholland in 1994.

On a more positive note … Beltran reached another significant statistical milestone in this game, hitting his 12th homer of the season in the fourth inning for his 2,500th career hit. He’s the 99th player all-time and the 10th switch-hitter with that many hits, but also joined an even more exclusive club when looking at his rare combo of speed, power and on-base skills.

Just three other players in major-league history, along with Beltran, have compiled at least 2,500 hits, 400 homers, 300 stolen bases and 1,000 walks: Barry Bonds, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez.

One is enough
One swing changed everything for the Yankees on Sunday afternoon. With Starlin Castro‘s two-run homer in the seventh inning, they avoided becoming a historical footnote in baseball history and instead added another rare win to their franchise record books. The go-ahead blast ended Jake Odorizzi’s no-hit bid in emphatic fashion and delivered one of the most unusual victories ever recorded by a Yankee team.

It was the first time since at least 1913 that the Yankees won a game of nine or more innings while recording just one hit or fewer. The only other instance of this happening in a contest of any length was July 10, 1914 against the Indians, the second game of a doubleheader that lasted only six innings. The next day, on July 11, a 19-year-old named Babe Ruth made his major-league debut for the Boston Red Sox.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

This was also the first time since at least 1913 that the Yankees were held to one hit or fewer and scored more than one run in a game, regardless of the length or outcome.

Just three other times in the Live Ball Era (since 1920) have the Yankees played a game where their only hit was a home run: Sept. 10, 1999 vs. the Red Sox (Pedro’s 17-strikeout one-hitter); June 1, 1960 vs. the Orioles; Aug. 11, 1943 vs. the Browns.

Lost in the statistical madness was another fantastic outing by Nathan Eovaldi. He threw six innings of one-run ball, winning his fifth straight start and improving to 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA in his last seven starts. Nasty Nate now has a streak of back-to-back-to-back starts of at least six innings and no more than one run allowed for the first time in his career.

5/27 to 5/29 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

That quick little three-game homestand is over and the Yankees are back out on the road for a ten-game, four-city road trip. The trip starts with three in Tampa, the Yankees’ home away from home. They took two of three from the Rays at Yankee Stadium last month.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rays are slumpin’. They just lost two straight at home to the Marlins and they’ve lost five of their last six games overall. Tampa is 21-24 with a +4 run differential on the season. The Yankees are playing the last place team in the AL East for the second straight series. Hopefully they don’t let the Rays climb out of the cellar like they did the Blue Jays.

Offense & Defense

Here’s a fun fact: the Rays lead baseball with 67 home runs as a team. How about that? We’re not used to seeing them hit the ball out of the park like that. They’re averaging 4.18 runs per game with a team 106 wRC+ overall. Tampa is without two of their best players in OF Kevin Kiermaier (109 wRC+) and 2B Logan Forsythe (160 wRC+). Kiermaier broke some bones in his hand making a sliding catch and Forsythe has a small fracture in his shoulder thanks to a Felix Hernandez pitch. Neither is coming back this series.

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

These days manager Kevin Cash bats OF Brandon Guyer (172 wRC+) leadoff and SS Brad Miller (105 wRC+) second against righties. Miller has hit much better the last few weeks. 3B Evan Longoria (109 wRC+) bats third, IF Steven Pearce (155 wRC+) cleans up, and OF Steven Souza Jr. (125 wRC+) hits fifth. That’s the regular lineup. Pearce plays whatever position needs to be played that day. OF Desmond Jennings (53 wRC+) has taken over in center with Kiermaier out and 1B Logan Morrison (84 wRC+) is the regular first baseman.

Behind the plate C Curt Casali (59 wRC+) and C Hank Conger (0 wRC+) split time. OF Mikie Mahtook (-50 wRC+) and UTIL Tayler Motter (106 wRC+) are right-handed hitters who will see platoon duty. Mahtook is the kid the Rays took with the Yankees’ first round pick after they signed Rafael Soriano. Good times. DH Corey Dickerson (87 wRC+) is the DH and the 12th position player on the roster. The Rays are carrying eight relievers.

The Rays willingly downgraded their defense in an effort to improve their offense. Jennings is very good in center but he’s no Kiermaier. Longoria is still solid at third, and Souza and Guyer are fine in the outfield corners. Aside from them, Tampa has shaky gloves at first (LoMo), second (Pearce lately), short (Miller), and behind the plate. Conger has actually thrown three runners out trying to steal this season. Runners are only 16-for-19 (84%) against him this year after going 42-for-43 (98%) last year.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:10pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TB) vs. RHP Chris Archer (vs. NYY)
Woof. Rough season for Archer. The 27-year-old has a 5.16 ERA (4.58 FIP) in ten starts and 52.1 innings, and both his walk (10.9%) and homer (1.72 HR/9) rates have shot up big time. He’s still getting a ton of strikeouts (27.3%) and a healthy amount of grounders (45.9%). Archer’s struggles really started last season. He had a 4.87 ERA (3.80 FIP) in his final ten starts of 2015. Thanks to his very improved upper-80s changeup — it’s a real weapon now — Archer has closed up his platoon split. Archer still sits in the mid-90s with his heater and his upper-80s slider is vicious. It might be the best slider in baseball, at least among right-handers. The Yankees did not see Archer when these two teams met last month.

Saturday (4:10pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TB) vs. LHP Matt Moore (vs. NYY)
I fell for it. Moore was awful last year after coming back from Tommy John surgery, but he was throwing darts in Spring Training and looked really good for his first few starts of the regular season, so I bought in. He was ready to dominate. The result: a 5.47 ERA (4.52 FIP) in nine starts and 51 innings. He had a 5.43 ERA (4.83 FIP) in 63 innings last year. D’oh. Moore still has good strikeout (21.9%) and walk (7.1%) rates, but he’s not getting grounders (43.3%) and he’s not keeping the ball in the park (1.59 HR/9). Moore, who has historically been better against lefties than righties, works with a four-seam fastball that averages 93 mph and tops out around 97 mph. A hard low-80s curve and a power mid-80s changeup are his two secondary pitches. The Yankees scored four runs in 6.2 innings against Moore when these clubs met in New York a month ago.

(Rob Foldy/Getty)
(Rob Foldy/Getty)

Sunday (1:10pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. TB) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (vs. NYY)
The Rays got Odorizzi in the James Shields/Wil Myers trade a few years back, and he’s turned into a rock solid starter for them. The 26-year-old has a 3.46 ERA (4.22 FIP) with good strikeout (20.1%) and walk (7.1%) rates in ten starts and 54.2 innings so far this season. He has been both fly ball (38.3% grounders) and homer (1.32 HR/9) prone, and righties have hit him much harder than lefties, which is normal. Odorizzi’s had a reverse split throughout his career because his best pitch is a nasty mid-80s splitter. He sets it up with low-90s four-seamers. A low-80s cutter/slider is his third pitch, and he’ll also flip a few low-70s curves per start to mess with hitters. The Yankees did not see Odorizzi in April. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out Brian McCann is 12-for-20 (.600) with three doubles and three homers against him. McCann crushes Odorizzi.

Bullpen Status

The Rays have been without closer RHP Brad Boxberger all season because of core muscle surgery, but they could get him back this series. He’s been on a rehab assignment and he recently pitched back-to-back days, which is usually the last step before being activated. We’ll see. Here is Cash’s bullpen:

Closer: RHP Alex Colome (1.29 ERA/1.61 FIP)
Setup: LHP Xavier Cedeno (3.65/1.95) and RHP Erasmo Ramirez (2.43/3.90)
Middle: LHP Dana Eveland (7.43/5.49), LHP Enny Romero (3.71/4.44), RHP Ryan Webb (3.31/4.01)
Long: RHP Ryan Garton and RHP Tyler Sturdevant

There are a few names in there you might not recognize. Sturdevant and Garton were both called up recently, and they made their MLB debuts earlier this week. Garton (46 pitches), Webb (26), and Eveland (5) all pitched yesterday. Eveland pitched Wednesday too, otherwise the bullpen is in good shape. It’s not the most intimidating bullpen out there, but for the most part they’re rested.

As for the Yankees, head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relievers. The starters have gone at least six innings in each of the last eight games, so the bullpen has not been worked too hard of late. That’s good.

Yankeemetrics: Heroes and zeroes [April 22-24]

Walk-off wins are awesome. (Getty Images)
Walk-off wins are awesome. (Getty Images)

Stealing a win
The Yankees woke up from their nightmare and temporarily broke out of their massive slump on Friday night, beating the Rays 6-3 in the series opener. Yes, six runs is considered an offensive explosion these days.

Jacoby Ellsbury may not have started the game, but he still delivered the most electrifying moment of the season so far, swiping home in the bottom of the fifth inning to even the score at 3-3. It was the first straight steal of home by a Yankee at Yankee Stadium since Gerald Williams on May 29, 1993 vs. the White Sox.

Ellsbury also sparked the offense with two hits and two RBI in three at-bats after taking over for the injured Aaron Hicks. He is the first Yankee in more than four decades — since Jerry Kenney in 1969 — to come off the bench and produce at least two hits, two RBI, a stolen base and a run scored in a game.

Let’s go streaking
Break out the champagne, folks … the Yankees finally put together a win streak with a dramatic walk-off victory on Saturday against Tampa Bay.

Brett Gardner was the hero, tying the game in the seventh inning with an RBI infield single and then earning himself a Gatorade shower with a two-out towering blast into the right field seats in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was his sixth career walk-off hit, the most by any Yankee since his debut in 2008.

Gardner also became just the third Yankee left-fielder in the last 85 seasons to hit a two-out, walk-off homer, joining Gary Thomasson (1978) and Charlie Keller (1941).

The Rays called up their top pitching prospect, Blake Snell, to start the game and the 23-year-old lefty put on quite a show in the Bronx. He worked five innings, allowing one run on two hits with six strikeouts and a walk. Mixing his mid-90s fastball with a knee-buckling curve plus a handful of changeups and sliders, Snell had a truly impressive and historic performance.

He is the only pitcher in the last 100 years to make his major-league debut against the Yankees and pitch at least five innings, allow no more than two hits while striking out at least six batters. The last guy to make his major-league debut against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium and give up one run or fewer with six-or-more strikeouts was Luis Tiant in 1964.

No sweep for you
All good things must come to an end. The Yankees dropped the series finale on Sunday, failed to complete the three-game sweep and fell back into last place in the AL East.

Their offensive struggles continued with just one run scored on six hits, the eighth time in 17 games this season they’ve been held to two runs or fewer. That’s tied for the most such games in the American League this season.

As much as you can blame the cold bats for the loss, the Yankees were never in this game thanks to a horrible outing by Michael Pineda. The Rays pummeled him in the first inning, belting out six consecutive two-out hits — two of which left the ballpark — to take a 5-0 lead.

Pineda gutted out another four frames and finished with one of the most bizarre pitching lines you’ll ever see: five innings, 10 hits, seven runs, nine strikeouts, four home runs, one walk. Yes, there’s some dominance in there (nine strikeouts), but also a bunch of poorly located fastballs/meatballs (four homers).

With that Hekyll-and-Jyde performance, Pineda became the first Yankee pitcher in the last 100 seasons to allow four-or-more home runs and strike out at least nine batters in a game. In the past 20 years, the only other Yankees to give up 10-plus hits and have nine-plus Ks in an outing of fewer than six innings pitched were Roger Clemens (2003) and David Cone (1998).

Overall, the Rays got 12 hits and struck out 16 times. Never before in franchise history had Yankees pitchers given up that many hits and recorded that many strikeouts in a nine-inning game.

Rays outfielder Steven Souza Jr. etched his name in the Yankee record books with a rare and nearly unprecedented display of power on his 27th birthday. He is just third player ever with a multi-homer game at Yankee Stadium (old or new) on his birthday, along with Justin Morneau (2009) and Bernie Williams (2003).

4/22 to 4/24 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees wrap up this disaster of a homestand with three games against the Rays this weekend. Will runs be scored? Maybe! This is the first meeting of the season between the two AL East rivals.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rays rallied from a 5-1 deficit to beat the Red Sox 12-8 yesterday. They’ve won four of their last five games overall, and they are 7-8 with a -5 run differential on the young season. Wee bit early to start worrying about records and run differentials though.

Offense & Defense

Dickerson. (Presswire)
Dickerson. (Presswire)

Does Tampa Bay ever have a good offense? They made a bunch of moves this offseason designed to generate runs, and the result is a team 92 wRC+ and an average of 3.47 runs per game. Last year they had a 100 wRC+ and scored 3.98 runs per game. Mission not accomplished. Still early though. Manager Kevin Cash’s team is healthy on the position player side. No one on the DL or even day-to-day.

As always, the Rays’ offense is built around 3B Evan Longoria (113 wRC+), who remains a force even though he is no longer the hitter he was early in his career. 2B Logan Forsythe (154 wRC+) has taken over as the leadoff hitter, and OF Corey Dickerson (149 wRC+), who came over from the Rockies in the Jake McGee trade, is the cleanup hitter. For some reason Cash has continued to bat 1B Logan Morrison (-57 wRC+) second ahead of Longoria. I do not understand.

OF Desmond Jennings (100 wRC+), OF Kevin Kiermaier (109 wRC+), and OF Steven Souza (134 wRC+) form the regular outfield from left to right. OF Brandon Guyer (223 wRC+) and 1B Steve Pearce (69 wRC+) will see platoon duty against lefties. SS Brad Miller (20 wRC+) is the regular shortstop and C Curt Casali (46 wRC+) and C Hank Conger (25 wRC+) have shared catching duties almost 50/50. IF Tim Beckham (-10 wRC+) joins Pearce, Guyer, and the other catcher on the bench.

The Rays sacrificed some defense in an effort to improve their offseason over the winter. Specifically, they replaced James Loney with Morrison/Pearce, Asdrubal Cabrera with Miller, and Rene Rivera with Conger. All three moves were defensive downgrades. Here is the team’s projected runs saved visualization, via Sean Dolinar:

Rays defenseKiermaier is the best defensive center fielder in baseball right now. Jennings is a center fielder playing left, and Longoria has always been good at the hot corner. Everyone else? Yuck. Miller is very error prone at short — he’s Eduardo Nunez level there — and everyone else is range challenged.

I would be remiss if I didn’t note Conger is the worst throwing catcher in baseball. He threw out one of 43 attempted base-stealers last year. One! That’s a 97.7% success rate for the runners. Conger is 0-for-9 throwing out runners this year already. If he starts behind the plate this weekend, the Yankees have to run wild. Force the issue and make him throw you out.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TB) vs. LHP Matt Moore (vs. NYY)
Last year the 26-year-old Moore went through the same thing as Ivan Nova: he came back from Tommy John surgery at midseason and struggled the rest of the way. He had a 5.43 ERA (4.82 FIP) with the worst strikeout (16.6%) and home run (1.29 HR/9) numbers of his career in 63 innings. So far this year Moore has looked outstanding, pitching to a 2.95 ERA (2.99 FIP) in 18.1 innings across three starts. He has great strikeout (28.4%) and walk (4.1%) numbers with career average grounder (43.8%) and homer (0.98 HR/9) rates. Moore, who has historically been better against lefties than righties, works with a four-seam fastball that averages 93 mph and tops out around 97 mph. A hard low-80s curve and a power mid-80s changeup are his two secondary pitches. Three starts is three starts, but I’ve watched all of ’em and Moore has looked crazy sharp this year.

Saturday (1pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TB) vs. TBA
I have no idea who the Rays are going to start tomorrow. At this time yesterday it was likely to be right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, but then the 25-year-old came out of the bullpen against the Red Sox and threw 21 pitches in 1.1 innings. He threw an inning in relief Tuesday night too. I mean, I suppose he could still start tomorrow, but I doubt it would be a full 100-pitch effort. Ramirez has a 1.29 ERA (2.67 FIP) in 14 innings so far, with 12 strikeouts, one walk, one homer, and a 50.0% ground ball rate. At his best he’s a low walk/high ground ball guy who gets close to a league average number of strike threes. Thanks to a nasty low-80s changeup, Erasmo has had a reverse split throughout his career. He’s better against lefties than righties. A low-90s sinker and mid-80s slider are his other two pitches. Ramirez can really frustrate hitters by changing speeds, and he has pretty good career numbers against the Yankees. If Ramirez doesn’t start, my guess is righty Matt Andriese would come up from Triple-A.

Update: The Rays are calling up top pitching prospect Blake Snell to start Saturday, according to Marc Topkin. It will be the 23-year-old left-hander’s big league debut. MLB.com ranked Snell as the No. 12 prospect in baseball prior to Spring Training. Here’s a snippet of their free scouting report:

Snell sits at 92-94 mph with his fastball but can run it up to 96, and the pitch consistently plays up because of its exceptional late life. His slider is a second plus offering, thrown with sharp tilt that helps him miss plenty of bats, and his command of the pitch improved markedly in 2015. Snell’s changeup is still a work in progress, but it shows plus potential because he throws it with fastball-like arm speed and can dip it out of the zone … Snell trimmed his walk rate considerably last season but still possesses below-average control.

Snell had a 1.41 ERA (2.71 FIP) with a 31.3% strikeout rate and a 10.2% walk rate in 134 innings at three minor league levels last year. So far this year he’s allowed four runs on 15 hits and seven walks in 14.2 Triple-A innings. He’s struck out 21. With Snell starting in place of Ramirez, the Yankees are now scheduled to see four straight left-handed starters, and five southpaws in their next six games.

Ace Whitley sighting. (Presswire)
Ace Whitley sighting! (Presswire)

Sunday (1pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TB) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (vs. NYY)
Do you think Rays fans say Smyly should’ve had the surgery the same way Yankees fans say Tanaka should’ve had the surgery? Smyly, 26, opted for rehab over surgery after being diagnosed with a tear in his labrum last year, and here is he with a 2.91 ERA (2.91 FIP) through three starts and 21.2 innings. His strikeout (34.2%) and walk (5.1%) rates are fantastic in the early going. The grounder (35.4%) and homer (1.25 HR/9) numbers … not so much. Like most lefties, he’s better against left-handed batters than righties. His average velocity early this year (92.2 mph) is actually better than what it was last year (91.2 mph) before the labrum injury. Smyly also throws mid-80s cutters, low-80s changeups, and upper-70s curveballs.

Bullpen Status

The Rays and Red Sox played one of those wild back and forth games at Fenway Park yesterday, so the BoSox did the Yankees a solid and forced Cash to dip deep into this bullpen. He used six relievers to get five innings worth of outs. Here is the club’s bullpen:

  • LHP Xavier Cedeno: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 0 HR (23 pitches Thurs., 0 Weds.)
  • RHP Alex Colome: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 0 HR (5 pitches Thurs., 0 Weds.)
  • LHP Dana Eveland: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 0 HR (10 pitches Thurs., 13 Weds.)
  • RHP Danny Farquhar: 5.1 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 2 HR (12 pitches Thurs., 12 Weds.)
  • RHP Steve Geltz: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 20 Weds.)
  • LHP Enny Romero: 6 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 0 HR (20 pitches Thurs., 0 Weds.)
  • RHP Ryan Webb: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 16 Weds.)

The Rays traded McGee over the winter and RHP Brad Boxberger is on the DL after having core muscle surgery in Spring Training, so Colome is filling in at closer right now. Cedeno is Cash’s go-to left-on-left matchup guy, and Farquhar is the primary setup man. Geltz has yucky numbers but will get high-leverage innings.

Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller have had the last two nights off, and I’m guessing if the Yankees are even remotely close to a win tonight, Joe Girardi will lean on them heavily. We might see Dellin for five outs. The rest of the bullpen is kinda taxed, though Nova is available to go long if necessary. Our Bullpen Workload page has the details.

Yankees trade Carlos Corporan to Rays for cash

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today the Yankees traded catcher Carlos Corporan to the Rays for cash, the team announced. It’s only the second trade ever between the two AL East rivals. The other trade was the Nick Green for cash blockbuster back in 2006. Remember the Nick Green game? Good times.

Corporan, 32, had a unique opt-out clause in his contract. Once the Yankees determined they were not going to add him to the 40-man roster, they had to email the other 29 teams and give them the chance to add Corporan to their 40-man. Apparently no one bit; Corporan was traded as a non-40-man player.

The Yankees signed Corporan over the winter and it appeared that, at the very least, he would be a veteran safety net behind Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez in the backup catcher competition. Joe Girardi largely dismissed Corporan as a backup catcher candidate this spring and the job eventually went to Romine.

With Corporan gone, either Sebastian Valle or Eddy Rodriguez will back up Sanchez at Triple-A Scranton. Valle spent all of last season at Double-A with the Pirates. E-Rod bounced between Double-A and Triple-A with the Yankees. Either way, Sanchez is the starter for the RailRiders. No doubt about it.

The Rest of the AL East [2016 Season Preview]

Over the last six seasons, each of the five AL East teams has won at least one division title. The Yankees (2011, 2012) are the only club with multiple division titles in the last six years. The days of the AL East being dominated by the Yankees and Red Sox are long gone. The other three teams are no longer pushovers.

For what it’s worth, the projections at FanGraphs have the five AL East teams all winning between 79-88 games in 2016, a gap of only nine wins. Baseball Prospectus has them all in the 75-87 win range. If nothing else, the objective computers think the five clubs are pretty close in terms of talent level. You’re welcome to disagree, of course.

Because knowing your enemy is just as important as knowing yourself, let’s take some time to preview the upcoming season for the four non-Yankees teams in the AL East. This is nothing too in-depth. It’s just enough to give you an idea what the Yankees are up against in 2016.

Is the Showalter honeymoon over? (Presswire)
(Presswire)

Baltimore Orioles

Notable Additions: Mark Trumbo, Pedro Alvarez, Yovani Gallardo
Notable Losses: Wei-Yin Chen, Steve Pearce, Gerardo Parra

The Orioles went 81-81 last season, and they had to commit $207.8M to Chris Davis, Darren O’Day, and Matt Wieters this offseason just to keep their core intact. Also, Kevin Gausman is dealing with a shoulder issue and Miguel Gonzalez was released yesterday, so their rotation right now is:

  1. Chris Tillman
  2. Yovani Gallardo
  3. Ubaldo Jimenez
  4. ???
  5. ???

That seems less than ideal. O’Day and Zach Britton are a dynamite end-game tandem, but I’m not sure how manager Buck Showalter expects to get the ball to them. They’re counting on a big time bounceback from Tillman and consistency from Jimenez (lol), and for Gallardo to chew up innings better than he did last year. He completed six innings just twice in his final 16 starts of 2015.

The O’s are going to have to win a lot of 7-6 games to contend and they have the firepower to do so. Davis, Trumbo, Alvarez, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado are all legitimate 30 homer threats. Watch out for Jonathan Schoop too. He hit 15 homers in only 321 plate appearances last year. The Trumbo and Alvarez pickups don’t do anything to help the club’s OBP problem — the O’s were 26th in baseball with a .307 OBP in 2015 — so while they might hit 250 home runs this season, most of them will be solo shots.

Baltimore is the only AL East team that would really surprise me by winning the division. They’re going to hit a ton of homers, there’s no doubt about that, but they don’t get on base and the pitching staff is thin. I mean really, really thin. The O’s will be a headache to play this season. Over the course of 162 games though, I feel it’s only a matter of time until they fall behind the rest of the AL East.

A worthy foe. (Presswire)
A worthy foe. (Presswire)

Boston Red Sox

Notable Additions: David Price, Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith, Chris Young
Notable Losses: Wade Miley

For the third or fourth year in a row, the Red Sox changed philosophies this offseason, deciding to spend big after former GM Ben Cherington spent a few years preaching restraint and flexibility. New baseball operations chief Dave Dombrowski is all about big names, has been for years, hence the Price signing and Kimbrel trade. Those moves were right in his wheelhouse.

Price gives the BoSox the ace they so clearly lacked, but I think the bullpen additions are going to help them more than Price. Kimbrel and Smith are replacing Alexei Ogando and Craig Breslow, who combined to allow 62 runs in 130.1 innings in 2015. Those two will join Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa in the late innings. (Smith’s dealing with a flexor injury and will miss the start of the regular season.)

Offensively, the Red Sox have sneaky big questions in five spots: catcher (Blake Swihart), first base (Hanley Ramirez), third base (Pablo Sandoval), left field (Rusney Castillo), and center field (Jackie Bradley Jr.). They’re already talking about sending Castillo to Triple-A and playing a Young/Brock Holt platoon in left, and apparently now Travis Shaw is the starting third baseman. Everyone seems to be assuming Hanley and Bradley will have above-average seasons because … I don’t know why. At least Hanley has his track record to fall back on.

The Red Sox get the benefit of the doubt more than any chronically underachieving team deserves. They have talent, that much is clear, but they’ve had talent the last two years too, and they still finished in last place. The Red Sox are going to be tough to play against because they’re always tough to play against. Bet on them at your own risk though. No club has done less with more the last two seasons.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Tampa Bay Rays

Notable Additions: Logan Morrison, Brad Miller, Hank Conger, Steve Pearce, Corey Dickerson
Notable Losses: Asdrubal Cabrera, John Jaso, Nate Karns, Jake McGee, James Loney

Only the White Sox scored fewer runs than the Rays among AL teams a year ago, so Tampa Bay set out to improve their offense by acquiring a bunch of guys who can be good if used in very specific ways. Dickerson is good as long as he never faces lefties and is your DH. Miller is good as long as he never faces lefties and the ball is never hit to him. That kinda thing. That’s what the Rays do. They find imperfect players and try to use them perfectly.

The Rays did sacrifice some defense for offense this winter. Morrison is unquestionably worse at first base than Loney. (Loney was told he won’t make the team yesterday.) Remember how shaky and goof prone Didi Gregorius was early last year? That’s Miller all the time. Asdrubal is no great shakes in the field, but he is sure-handed. Conger, meanwhile, is the worst throwing catcher in baseball. He went 1-for-43 throwing out base-stealers last year. That is not a typo. 1-for-43. o n e f o r f o r t y t h r e e

To their credit, the Rays ostensibly improved their weaknesses without sacrificing too much from their strengths. They still have a solid rotation even without Karns and their defense is not atrocious. The bullpen is a little up in the air because McGee is gone and Brad Boxberger will miss a few weeks following core muscle surgery, so that’s their big question right now. Manager Kevin Cash usually doesn’t let his non-Chris Archer starters go through the lineup a third time, and those middle innings are rather treacherous.

For Tampa Bay to contend this year, they’ll need Evan Longoria to get back to where he was earlier in his career, and I’m not sure how possible that is. He’s now 30 and his power is starting to vanish; he went from being a consistent .230+ ISO guy to a .150 ISO guy the last two seasons. That’s bad news for the Rays, especially since his six-year, $100M extension kicks in next year. The Rays will be in the hunt this year, but, as always, they’ll need a lot to go right to beat out division rivals with more resources.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Toronto Blue Jays

Notable Additions: Jesse Chavez, J.A. Happ, Drew Storen, Gavin Floyd
Notable Losses: David Price, Mark Buehrle, Mark Lowe, Liam Hendriks, Ben Revere

You’d think going to the postseason for the first time in two decades would be enough to keep the GM around, but apparently not. The Blue Jays named former Indians president Mark Shapiro their new president last year, replacing the retired Paul Beeston, and GM Alex Anthopoulos felt his authority would be undermined, so he rejected an extension offer and walked away over the winter. Crazy, huh?

The Blue Jays have never been huge spenders and Shapiro himself has a history of steering clear of big free agents, so the team never made much of an effort to keep Price. They instead opted to replace him (and Buehrle) with Happ, Chavez, and a full year of Marcus Stroman. It … might work? They only had Price for eleven starts in 2015, after all. Buehrle was close to toast by the end of the season too.

Toronto still has their powerhouse lineup — they scored 891 runs last season, 127 more than the second highest scoring team (Yankees!) and the most by any team since the 2009 Yankees (915) — and now they’ll have a full year of Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop. Even if he spends time on the DL, 100 games of Tulo and 62 games of a replacement level player is still one of the best shortstops in the game.

As I said this morning, I am of the belief the Blue Jays will outscore any pitching problems. The Yankees did that for years in the mid-2000s. I’m an offense first guy. I’ll always bet on the team with a juggernaut offense coming out ahead over the course of a 162-game season. The Blue Jays may not be quite as imposing as they were in the second half last season, but they’re still very good. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will be free agents next offseason, so this might be the club’s last chance to win with this core.