Trade Deadline Notes: Nats, Sabathia, Blue Jays, Pineda

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The trade deadline is now only nine days away, and according to FanGraphs, the Yankees have a 9.6% chance to make the postseason. That’s not very good. Buster Olney (video link) said yesterday Aroldis Chapman could be dealt as soon as this weekend, though I’m not sure I buy that. “The Yankees are playing it smart and will likely take it to the end to get the most,” said an official with another team to George King. Here are the latest trade rumblings.

Nats make top prospects off-limits

Despite their interest in Chapman, Barry Svrluga reports the Nationals will not trade top prospects Lucas Giolito, Trea Turner, Victor Robles, or Reynaldo Lopez for the hard-throwing lefty. Every team says they’re unwilling to trade their top prospects this time of year, so I wouldn’t make too much of this. It’s just posturing.

If the Nationals are serious about getting Chapman (or Andrew Miller), they’ll have to put one of those guys on the table. Lopez seems most likely, mostly because he’s the lowest rated prospect of the bunch. He’s not bad — Baseball America had him 48th in their midseason top 100 — the other guys are just really, really good. Based on what Miller fetched two years ago, I think Lopez would be a fair return for Chapman.

Blue Jays scouted Sabathia

The Blue Jays had a scout watching CC Sabathia‘s most recent start, reports Jon Heyman. George King says the Astros, Mets, Marlins, and Cubs also had scouts on hand Thursday. It’s worth noting Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro was in the Indians’ front office all those years Sabathia was in Cleveland, including most as GM. There’s a bit of a connection there.

We heard Sabathia has been drawing some interest the other day, though I have a hard time believing it’s serious interest. I’m guessing it’s more “if you eat a ton of money we’ll take him off your hands” interest. Also, an intradivision trade with the Blue Jays probably isn’t happening, even though you could argue trading Sabathia to an AL East rival would be good for the Yankees.

Giants, Astros, Cubs among teams to scout Pineda

The Giants, Astros, Cubs, and “a ton” of others were on hand to see Michael Pineda‘s most recent start, report Jon Morosi and Chris Cotillo. Pineda had his first scoreless start of the season Wednesday, and he had maybe his nastiest slider of the season too. As Katie pointed out in Yankeemetrics, Pineda generated 18 swings and misses with his slider that game, the most by any pitcher in baseball in 2016.

The Yankees are at the point where they have to figure out what they want to do with Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi. Do they want to keep them long-term? If so, they should start thinking about extensions. If they don’t want them long-term, then they should trade them soon to get as much back as possible. I understand waiting and hoping they rebuild value in the second half, but I think it’s more likely they’ll lose value going forward between the injury risk and being closer to free agency.

Yankeemetrics: D’Oh, Canada [May 30-June 1]

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Lost in translation
The Yankees crossed the border for another series in Toronto, but the script for Monday’s game was a familiar one: the starting pitching was mediocre while the offense continued to flounder and reach historic lows, producing a 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

Through 50 games, the Yankees are putting up offensive numbers that resemble some of the weakest squads in franchise history. Their batting average (.233) and on-base percentage (.302) are both their worst at this point in the season since 1969, while they’ve scored their fewest runs (192) at the 50-game marker since 1990.

One glimmer of hope is that twice before in the Wild Card Era they’ve been under .500 through their first 50 games – 1995 and 2007 – and both times they rebounded to make the playoffs that season.

Ivan Nova entered the game with a terrible track record against the Blue Jays and did little to improve it. He now has a 5.66 ERA in 17 games (15 starts) vs. Toronto, the second-worst among active pitchers with more than 10 starts against them.

Nova was pounded by the Blue Jays’ lineup, giving up four extra-base hits and a bunch of loud outs in six innings pitched. The results were hardly surprising, though, despite Nova’s recent solid work in the rotation: he entered the game allowing an average exit velocity of 97.0 mph on line drives and fly balls, the worst mark among MLB pitchers this season (min. 100 balls in play).

cc
Deja Blue
Once again the Yankees squandered another strong outing from their starting pitcher as the offensive struggles deepened in a 4-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Tuesday night.

After the losing the first two games, the Yankees clinched their fifth consecutive series loss against the Blue Jays dating back to last year. The last time the Jays won five straight series against the Yankees was a six-series streak spanning the 1992 and 1993 seasons.

CC Sabathia wrote another chapter in his incredible renaissance season, holding the Blue Jays scoreless through six innings before being charged with a couple runs in the seventh. Still, he finished up the month with a sparkling 1.04 ERA, the best by a Yankee pitcher with at least three starts in May since Allie Reynolds (1.00) in 1952.

He hasn’t given up more than three runs in any start this year, the first time in his career he’s begun a season with eight straight starts of three-or-fewer runs allowed.

Deja Blue Part II
Re-read the first sentence of the section above and replace it with a 7-0 score — their worst shutout loss to the Blue Jays since Oct. 1, 2004 — and you’ve got the quick recap of Wednesday’s game.

With the loss, the Yankees were swept in series of three-or-more games at Toronto for the first time since Sept. 19-21, 2000. Their struggles in this city go behind the current season, though. They are now just 24-36 at the Rogers Centre since 2010, easily their worst record at any AL stadium in that span.

It’s not just the string of losses in Toronto; they’ve also been held to two runs or fewer in five straight games here for the first time in the history of this rivalry. The last time the Yankees scored two or fewer runs in five straight games at any road ballpark was in 1996 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.

Masahiro Tanaka‘s performance wasn’t perfect (and that’s basically what he needed to be with this version of the Bronx Bummers supporting him), but he worked out of jams and was good enough to hold the Blue Jays to just two runs — one earned — in six innings.

He owns an AL-best road ERA of 1.36, and has gone at least five innings and allowed no more than two earned runs in each of his six road starts this year. The only pitchers in franchise history with longer such streaks to begin a season are Hideki Irabu (1998) and Whitey Ford (1958).

5/30 to 6/1 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Blue Jays again? The Blue Jays again. These two teams met in New York last week and now they’ll play three games in Toronto. This is their third series of the season overall and their second at Rogers Centre. The Yankees won the first game and dropped the next two in each of the first two series against the Blue Jays this year. Stop that. Win this series, please.

What Have They Done Lately?

While the Yankees were winning two of three in Tampa, the Blue Jays took two of three from the Red Sox at home. They did drop the series finale yesterday though. The Blue Jays have won seven of their last ten games overall and are 26-26 on the season with a +3 run differential. They’re in third place and the Yankees are a half-game back despite having one fewer loss.

Offense & Defense

Toronto is getting hot, folks. It was bound to happen eventually. They’ve scored 31 runs in their last five games, raising their season averages to 4.17 runs per game and a team 97 wRC+. SS Troy Tulowitzki (81 wRC+) is on the DL with a quad strain he suffered at Yankee Stadium last week, so he won’t be back this series. 1B Chris Colabello is out too. He’s still serving his performance-enhancing drug suspension.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

As we saw last week, the Blue Jays have rearranged their lineup in an effort to generate more offense. RF Jose Bautista (138 wRC+) now bats leadoff with 3B Josh Donaldson (141 wRC+) and DH Edwin Encarnacion (105 wRC+) right behind them. They don’t wait around. They throw the thunder right at you. No sense in forcing a speedy leadoff hitter when you don’t have one, right? Right. LF Michael Saunders (148 wRC+) and 1B Justin Smoak (122 wRC+) back up the big bats as the No. 4 and 5 hitters.

2B Devon Travis (56 wRC+) came off the DL in New York last week and effectively replaces Tulowitzki in the lineup. IF Ryan Goins (15 wRC+) slid over from second to short. C Russell Martin (43 wRC+) is having a poor season despite those two homers he hit in the Bronx last week. CF Kevin Pillar (67 wRC+) is the other regular. C Josh Thole (24 wRC+), IF Darwin Barney (122 wRC+), OF Ezequiel Carrera (159 wRC+), and UTIL Jimmy Paredes (141 wRC+) are the bench players.

Even with Tulowitzki out, the Blue Jays have a strong team defense, with top notch defenders at third (Donaldson), short (Goins), center (Pillar), and catcher (Martin). Smoak, Travis, and Saunders are solid glovemen as well. Bautista is the weak link in the field and he’s not exactly Carlos Beltran out there. His arm his strong but his range is a little limited. Overall, this team can really catch the ol’ baseball.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (7pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (vs. NYY)
The 32-year-old Estrada is one of the most unconventionally effective pitchers in the game. He has a 2.76 ERA (3.85 FIP) in nine starts and 58.2 innings despite sitting around 88 mph with his fastball. Estrada disrupts timing expertly with an upper-70s changeup that he throws with the same arm action as his heater. By time you’re able to tell the two pitches apart, it’s too late. You’ve started your swing already. Estrada has a good strikeout rate (22.0%) and not so good walk (9.8%) and grounder (37.6%) rates. Most of his fly balls are weak pop-ups though, which is why his homer rate (0.92 HR/9) is roughly league average. Estrada will throw some upper-80s cutters and mid-70s curves per start, and he’s typically more effective against righties than lefties. Last week he held the Yankees to three runs in seven innings.

Tuesday (7pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TOR) vs. LHP J.A. Happ (vs. NYY)
There is growing evidence that when Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage fixes a pitcher, he stays fixed. Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez were dynamite under his watch — Volquez left the Pirates and he’s still very good — and last year Happ was outstanding following a midseason trade to Pittsburgh. He’s continued to be outstanding with the Blue Jays this year. Happ, 33, had a 3.20 ERA (4.29 FIP) in ten starts and 64.2 innings this season despite middling peripherals: 16.3% strikeouts, 7.8% walks, 44.4% grounders, and 0.97 HR/9. He’s been better against lefties than righties, as expected. Happ throws low-90s four-seamers, low-90s sinkers, mid-80s changeups, and upper-70s curves. Last week the Yankees scored just one run in seven innings against the veteran southpaw.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Wednesday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Aaron Sanchez (vs. NYY)
The 23-year-old Sanchez is starting to get the hang of this starting pitcher thing. He has a 3.29 ERA (3.24 FIP) in ten starts and 65.2 innings this season, and he’s done it by combining strikeouts (21.5%) and grounders (59.7%). His walk rate (8.5%) is okay and he keeps the ball in the park (0.55 HR/9). Sanchez lives off his mid-90s sinker and he backs it up with an upper-70s curveball and an improving upper-80s changeup. The changeup is still a work in progress, but it is getting better. Lefties still give him trouble when he can’t keep the change down. Sanchez held New York to two runs (one earned) in six innings back in April. He did not face them in the Bronx last week.

Bullpen Status

The Red Sox did the Yankees a real solid this weekend by taxing Toronto’s bullpen. They played eleven innings yesterday and manager John Gibbons had to get 11.2 total innings out of his bullpen in the three games, and most of them were high-leverage innings. Here is the status of their relief crew and the number of pitches they threw against the BoSox:

Role ERA FIP Sunday Saturday Friday
RHP Roberto Osuna Closer 1.17 2.20 19 0 13
RHP Gavin Floyd Setup 3.91 4.46 18 15 0
RHP Jesse Chavez Middle 3.36 5.42 24 9 0
RHP Drew Storen Middle 7.02 4.97 14 17 0
LHP Aaron Loup LOOGY 0.00 -2.89 0 9 0
LHP Chad Girodo LOOGY 4.82 7.91 7 0 0
RHP Joe Biagini Long 0.91 2.51 26 0 20

(Don’t read to much into Loup’s stats. He recently came off the DL and has thrown two-thirds of an inning this season.)

Osuna has pitched four times in the last five days. This is a 21-year-old kid we’re talking about. I can’t imagine he will be available tonight. The Blue Jays want to protect his arm and sending him out there five times in the span of six days is just … no. No. Not happening. Biagini has pitched four times in the last six days as well.

Estrada is mighty good, but, given the status of Toronto’s bullpen, the Yankees have to be patient tonight and get Estrada’s pitch count up. Gibbons’ only two fresh relievers are lefty specialists. Getting to the bullpen as early as possible will help the Yankees tonight and over the rest of the series as well. This bullpen is capital-T Taxed. I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a roster move to add a fresh long man before tonight’s game.

As for the Yankees, their bullpen is in pretty good shape. Joe Girardi should have his three big end-game arms tonight if necessary. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page to see how many pitches each of New York’s relievers have thrown over the last ten days.

Yankeemetrics: Fun while it lasted [May 24-26]

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Famous Nathan
A cross-country trip and an off-day did little to slow down the Yankees’ momentum as they extended their win streak to six games on Tuesday with a 6-0 blanking of the Blue Jays.

The victory also lifted them to the magical .500 mark for the first time since April 14; that 35-game blip with a sub-.500 record was their longest such stretch since the middle of the 1995 season.

Nathan Eovaldi continued his personal run of excellence with one of his strongest outings of the season. He gave up just two hits in six shutout innings, his second straight start going that deep into the game surrendering no more than two hits, and the third time overall in 2016 he’s done that.

Through Tuesday’s games, the only other pitcher in the majors this season with three games of at least six innings pitched and two or fewer hits allowed was Jake Arrieta. The last Yankee pitcher to compile three such outings within the team’s first 45 games was Bob Shawkey in 1919.

Eovaldi dominated the Toronto lineup with a nasty combo of 98-mph heaters and diving splitters. Of the 87 four-seam fastballs and split-finger fastballs that he threw, the Blue Jays swung at 42 of them and missed 11 times, his second-most combined whiffs on those two pitches in a start this season. Toronto went 0-for-18 in at-bats ending in either a four-seamer or splitter, including five strikeouts, all with the splitter.

Chasen nothing
The Yankees win streak came to a screeching halt on Wednesday after getting pounded by the Blue Jays, 8-4, and once again falling below .500 on the season.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Looking at the final score, you hardly could have predicted that this would be a loss for the Yankees. Entering the game, the Yankees were 17-1 when scoring at least four runs (best record in MLB) and the Blue Jays were 0-21 when allowing at least four runs (worst record in MLB).

The game was tight through the middle innings until Chasen Shreve entered in the seventh … and then things quickly got out of hand as the struggling lefty surrendered two homers and a double to the first three batters he faced. That gave him seven longballs allowed in 19 innings pitched this season, a rate of 3.32 per nine innings that would easily be the highest single-season mark by a Yankee pitcher with at least 15 innings pitched.

The last Yankee to give up at least three extra-base hits, including two homers, in an outing of one inning or fewer was … Shreve on August 2, 2015 against the White Sox. The only other player in franchise history to have two such games in their Yankee career was Catfish Hunter (in 1977 and 1978).

The one-man show
The Yankees wasted a stellar outing from CC Sabathia and dropped the rubber game on Thursday afternoon, 3-1. They’ve now lost four straight series at Yankee Stadium to the Blue Jays, their longest home series losing streak in the history of the rivalry.

Sabathia turned in another dazzling performance on the mound, holding Toronto to just two hits and two runs (both unearned) in seven innings. He’s now allowed three-or-fewer runs in each of his first seven starts, matching the longest such streak to begin a season in his career. He also did it in 2006 as a 25-year-old with the Indians.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Sabathia has quietly been one of the best pitchers in the entire American League dating back to the final month of last season. His 2.56 ERA since Sept. 1, 2015 is the fourth-lowest among AL pitchers with at least 10 starts in that span.

Carlos Beltran returned to the outfield but couldn’t keep up his scorching-hot production with the bat, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. The only other Yankee right fielders in the last 25 seasons to come to the plate at least four times in a game and strike out every time were Paul O’Neill (1997) and Raul Mondesi (2002).

5/24 to 5/26 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are back home from the West Coast but only temporarily. They’ll play three games against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium this week before heading back out on the road for a ten-game trip. Also of note: the Yankees will play their next four series against AL East rivals. Time to make up some ground in the division. The Yanks lost two of three to the Jays in Toronto last month.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Blue Jays took three of four from the lowly Twins over the weekend, but they were struggling pretty hard before that. Like five straight losses and eight losses in eleven games hard. Toronto is 22-24 with a +2 run differential overall in 2016. They occupy the AL East cellar at the moment, a spot the Yankees occupied for far too long this season.

Offense & Defense

Last season the Blue Jays scored more runs than any team since the 2009 Yankees. This year they’re averaging only 4.04 runs per game with a team 97 wRC+. Can’t say I saw that coming! The Blue Jays are still without 2B Devon Travis, who is currently on a minor league rehab assignment after having shoulder surgery last year. Over the weekend manager John Gibbons told Arden Zwelling he “wouldn’t expect” Travis to be back this series. Also, 1B Chris Colabello is currently out serving a performance-enhancing drug suspension.

Bautista. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Bautista. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Toronto has been struggling offensively so much this month that last week the players got together, held a team meeting to talk things out, and then made some lineup suggestions to Gibbons. As a result, RF Jose Bautista (139 wRC+) now bats leadoff. Yes, really. 3B Josh Donaldson (137 wRC+) and DH Edwin Encarnacion (106 wRC+) bat second and third with 1B Justin Smoak (132 wRC+) settling in as the cleanup hitter. SS Troy Tulowitzki (83 wRC+) and LF Michael Saunders (164 wRC+) follow as the five-six hitters.

The bottom of the lineup has been wholly unproductive for the Blue Jays. C Russell Martin (14 wRC+) is having a miserable season, which means he’s going to hit like five homers with a .750 OBP this series. CF Kevin Pillar (76 wRC+) and 2B Ryan Goins (12 wRC+) round out the regulars. C Josh Thole (30 wRC+), UTIL Jimmy Paredes (11 PA), IF Darwin Barney (127 wRC+), and OF Ezequiel Carrera (136 wRC+) are the four bench players, though they don’t play a whole lot. Gibbons tends to stick with his regulars.

The Blue Jays have a sneaky good team defense. That part of their game gets overlooked because their offense was so dynamic last season. Pillar, Martin, Donaldson, and Goins are all excellent defenders while Tulowitzki, Smoak, and Saunders are all above-average as well. Bautista doesn’t have much range these days but his arm is a cannon. He’ll shut down the running down without even having to make a throw a la Aaron Hicks.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. TOR) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (vs. NYY)
What better way to start the series than against the knuckleballer? (Note: There are many better ways to start a series.) Dickey, 41, has a 4.50 ERA (4.45 FIP) in nine starts and 54 innings this year. His peripherals look like the peripherals of every other knuckleballer in history: 17.5% strikeouts, 7.4% grounders, 45.0% grounders, and 1.33 HR/9. He’s also been hammered by lefties this year but historically has a small platoon split. Dickey’s knuckler sits in the mid-70s and he throws it roughly 90% of the time. Back in the day with the Mets he threw two knuckleballs, a hard one in the upper-70s and a softer one in the upper-60s, but that is no longer the case. A low-80s fastball is his get-me-over pitch. The Yankees did not see Dickey when these two clubs met in April.

Wednesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (vs. NYY)
I have to say, I did not expect Estrada to repeat the success he had last year at all. He didn’t add a new pitch, didn’t change his pitch selection, nothing. I don’t want to say his success was a fluke, but it didn’t seem repeatable. Boy was I wrong. The 32-year-old Estrada has a 2.61 ERA (3.24 FIP) in eight starts and 51.2 innings this year, which is actually better than what he did last year (3.13 ERA and 4.40 FIP). His strikeout (24.2%) and homer (0.70 HR/9) rates are strong while his walk (9.2%) and grounder (40.7%) rates leave something to be desired. Estrada is a proven FIP beater because he’s adept at getting pop-ups and weak fly balls. He does it with a dynamite upper-70s changeup that he throws with the same arm action as his upper-80s fastball. It’s impossible to tell the two pitches apart until it’s too late. Estrada screws up the hitter’s timing as well as any pitcher in the game. He also throws some upper-80s cutters and mid-70s curves, but the fastball/changeup combo is his bread and butter. Like Dickey, the Yankees did not face Estrada in the series last month.

Estrada. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Estrada. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Thursday (4:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Aaron Sanchez (vs. NYY)
Don’t ask me why this is a 4:05pm ET start. It just is. Anyway, it seems young Mr. Sanchez is starting to find his way as a starting pitcher in this league. The 23-year-old has a 3.20 ERA (3.30 FIP) in nine starts and 59 innings by pairing an above-average strikeout rate (21.4%) with an excellent ground ball rate (58.1%). He walks a few too many (8.6%) and keeps the ball in the park (0.61 HR/9) with his heavy mid-90 sinker. Sanchez backs the sinker up with an upper-70s curveball and an improving upper-80s changeup. The changeup is still a work in progress, but it is getting better. Lefties still give him trouble when he can’t keep the change down. Sanchez held the Yankees to two runs (one earned) in six innings last month.

Bullpen Status

The bullpen has been a big problem for the Blue Jays all season. Their relievers have a 3.79 ERA (4.29 FIP) overall and they’ve been extremely home run prone (1.32 HR/9). Who knows what will happen in any given game, but, generally speaking, this is not a shutdown bullpen. Here are the relievers Gibbons has at his disposal:

Closer: RHP Roberto Osuna (1.40 ERA/2.24 FIP)
Setup: RHP Gavin Floyd (3.05/3.84)
Middle: RHP Drew Storen (7.80/5.40), RHP Joe Biagini (0.59/2.80), LHP Chad Girodo (3.38/6.07)
Long: SwP Pat Venditte (4.50/4.57)

Toronto had an off-day yesterday, so everyone is fresh. Storen has had some rather big meltdowns this season (what else is new?) so these days he gets lower leverage innings rather than setup work. Floyd is handling eighth inning duties for the time being. It’s worth noting Girodo has been in the big leagues for about three weeks, so the Blue Jays don’t have an established left-on-left reliever.

The Yankees, like the Blue Jays, had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is as rested as it’s going to get. Check out our Bullpen Workload page either. I know the Blue Jays have not been tearing the cover off the ball like they did last year, but these intra-division games are never easy. The Yankees are going to need their bullpen to win them some games this week.

Yankeemetrics: Oh (no), Canada [April 12-14]

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Blast + bloop = win
The Yankees struck first in their 19-game battle with the Blue Jays, grinding out a 3-2 win on Tuesday night. It also was their best run prevention game of the young season as it marked the first time in 2016 they held their opponent under four runs. The only other seasons in the last 65 years that the Yankees allowed four-or-more runs in each of their first five games were 1998 and 2007.

Brian McCann‘s hot bat fueled the come-from-behind win with a game-tying homer in the sixth inning. That was the 10th run he scored this season, joining Yogi Berra (1950) as the only Yankee catchers with than many runs scored through the team’s first six games.

Jacoby Ellsbury delivered the game-winner with an RBI bloop single in the seventh frame. He’s now already matched the number of go-ahead hits in the seventh inning or later that he had in the entire 2015 season. The last Yankee centerfielder with a tie-breaking hit in the seventh inning or later in Toronto was Bernie Williams on the final day of the 2004 season.

Masahiro Tanaka battled through five innings, and was dominant at times (six strikeouts) while also struggling to command his pitches (four walks).

tanaka vs blue jays

Despite his inefficiency, that effort continued a string of solid starts at the Rogers Centre for Tanaka. He’s now allowed no more than two earned runs and struck out at least six batters in three straight road outings against the Blue Jays. Just two other Yankee pitchers have done that: David Cone (1997-99) and Andy Pettitte (1996-98).

Super-Nova meltdown
Based on his implosion in Wednesday’s 7-2 loss, it seems like Ivan Nova is still trying to figure out this whole bullpen thing. After throwing four scoreless innings in his first relief appearance last week, Nova did a complete-180 and suffered through a disaster outing in his second try.

This was the damage: five hits, four runs, one wild pitch, one hit batter. Seems hard to cram all of that in one inning pitched, eh? Yup. Nova became the only Yankee pitcher since at least 1913 to plunk a guy, throw a wild pitch and give up at least five base-hits while getting three outs or fewer in a game.

Pineda’s results – three runs allowed (two earned) in six innings – were good, not great, but the most troubling takeaway was his three walks. The 27-year-old had never walked more than two batters in a Yankee uniform and his last appearance with three-plus walks was August 15, 2011 with the Seattle Mariners.

His streak of 41 straight starts with the Yankees allowing two walks or fewer was the longest by any pitcher in franchise history over the last 100 seasons. And his streak of 46 straight starts overall with no more than two walks was the seventh-longest by any major-league pitcher in that span.

A-Rod wasn’t the only Yankee to go hitless on the night, but his 0-fer performance might be the most notable — though it should have hardly been surprising given who was on the mound for Toronto. He is now 0-for-12 against Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ, his most at-bats (12) and plate appearances (15) without a hit against any pitcher he’s faced in his career.

Nate the Not-So-Great
So maybe the Yankees left their bats at border control. For the third time in this three-game series, the Yankees offense went into hibernation as they were held to two runs on three hits in the 4-2 loss. They are now 4-4 this season, and have scored a total of seven runs in their four losses compared to 35 runs in their four wins.

Nathan Eovaldi started strong, allowing just two hits and no runs the first two times through the Blue Jays order. Then it all fell apart. Five of the final 11 batters he faced reached base, tagging him for four runs on five hits (three doubles, two homers) before he was pulled in the seventh inning.

On the other hand, Eo-nigma (?) did strike out eight batters, his sixth straight start with seven-or-more punch outs dating back to August of last year. The only longer streaks in franchise history are by CC Sabathia (twice, in 2011 and 2009), Mike Mussina (2003) and Ron Guidry (1978).

Blue Jays designated hitter (and Yankee killer) Edwin Encarnacion also etched his name in the pinstriped record books. He’s now reached base safely in 26 straight games versus the Yankees, tied with Alex Rios (2006-08) for the best such mark by any Blue Jays hitter ever against the team.

4/12 to 4/14 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

They have an all-dirt infield in Toronto now. (Photo via @sbrooksbaseball)
They have an all-dirt infield in Toronto now. (Photo via @sbrooksbaseball)

Each of the five AL East teams has won a division title within the last six years. Last year it was the Blue Jays’ turn, as they stormed up the standings in the second half and blew by the Yankees. New York was six games up at the trade deadline and six games back at the end of the season. That happened quick. The Yankees and Blue Jays figure to compete for the AL East title again in 2016. They meet for the first time this week with three games at Rogers Centre.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Blue Jays are 3-4 in the early going this season. They split a four-game series with the Rays in Tampa Bay last week, then dropped two of three to the Red Sox at home over the weekend. Toronto has scored 29 runs and allowed 30 so far. Like the Yankees, the Blue Jays had an off-day yesterday. (They didn’t get rained out Sunday though.)

Offense & Defense

A year ago the Blue Jays scored 892 runs, by far the most in baseball — the Yankees were second with 764 runs — and the most by any team since the 2009 Yankees scored 915 runs. Most of the lineup returns this year. The only difference is OF Michael Saunders in left field instead of OF Ben Revere. The season is still very young, so I’m going to give you each player’s performance to date and their 2016 ZiPS projections. Sound good? Too bad if it doesn’t. This ain’t no democracy.

2016 Stats to Date 2016 ZiPS
C Russell Martin
2-for-20 (.100), 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 10 K .231/.329/.403 (101 wRC+), 15 HR, 5 SB
1B Chris Colabello
1-for-12 (.083), 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 5 K .251/.304/.433 (99 wRC+), 18 HR, 1 SB
2B Ryan Goins
6-for-21 (.286), 0 HR, 0 SB, 1 BB, 6 K .237/.282/.326 (64 wRC+), 5 HR, 3 SB
SS Troy Tulowitzki
3-for-25 (.120), 1 HR, 0 SB, 3 BB, 10 K .255/.330/.434 (107 wRC+), 16 HR, 1 SB
3B Josh Donaldson
9-for-29 (.310), 4 HR, 0 SB, 2 BB, 11 K .279/.354/.525 (139 wRC+), 32 HR, 6 SB
LF Michael Saunders
5-for-19 (.263), 1 HR, 0 SB, 1 BB, 5 K .247/.323/.421 (102 wRC+), 8 HR, 5 RBI
CF Kevin Pillar
6-for-29 (.207), 0 HR, 1 SB, 0 BB, 4 K .269/.304/.403 (90 wRC+), 11 HR, 21 SB
RF Jose Bautista
6-for-21 (.286), 2 HR, 0 SB, 9 BB, 8 K .263/.385/.527 (149 wRC+), 29 HR, 5 SB
DH Edwin Encarnacion
8-for-27 (.296), 0 HR, 0 SB, 2 BB, 4 K .271/.363/.505 (135 wRC+), 27 HR, 4 SB
BENCH
C Josh Thole
1-for-7 (.143), 1 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 2 K .238/.298/.313 (67 wRC+), 3 HR, 0 SB
1B Justin Smoak
1-for-5 (.200), 0 HR, 1 SB, 2 BB, 4 K .236/.314/.424 (101 wRC+), 16 HR, 1 SB
IF Darwin Barney 3-for-11 (.273), 0 HR, 2 SB, 1 BB, 0 K .241/.290/.336 (69 wRC+), 6 HR, 5 SB
OF Ezequiel Carrera
1-for-7 (.143), 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 2 K .253/.301/.351 (78 wRC+), 6 HR, 19 SB

ZiPS is expecting Tulowitzki to really start to decline, but the Blue Jays still have those three huge bats in Donaldson, Bautista, and Encarnacion. Those dudes are terrifying. For some reason manager John Gibbons insists on batting Pillar leadoff, meaning Donaldson, the No. 2 hitter, will bat with the bases empty and one out in roughly 70% of first innings in 2016.

Colabello is a prime candidate to see his numbers slip back — he hit .321/.367/.520 (142 wRC+) in 2015 — because he had a .411 BABIP last season, and he ain’t no true talent .411 BABIP hitter. No one is. Especially not a big, lumbering first baseman. I think it’s only a matter of time until Smoak is playing first base everyday, or at least everyday against righties. (He’s a switch-hitter, Colabello is a right-handed hitter.)

One aspect of the Blue Jays that got overlooked last year was their defense. This is a very good defensive club. Aside from first base and right field — Bautista doesn’t have a ton of range, but he has a rocket arm — they have average or better defenders all over the field. Check out Sean Dolinar’s defensive projections visualization:

Blue Jays defense

Pretty good defensive club right there. The Blue Jays don’t just mash. They catch the ball too. I thought that was a very overlooked part of their team a year ago.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Aaron Sanchez (vs. NYY)
The Blue Jays are giving Sanchez another try in the rotation. The 23-year-old had a 3.55 ERA (5.21 FIP) in eleven starts and 66 innings as a starter last season, and he came out of the gate by firing seven innings of one-run ball against the Rays in his first start of 2016. He struck out eight and walked one in that start, which is way different than the 15.0 K% and 13.2 BB% he had as a starter in 2015. Sanchez sits in the mid-90s with his sinker, and his go-to offspeed pitch is low-80s slider. He’s working on a changeup, and the pitch has shown some ridiculous movement in the past:

Aaron Sanchez change

Sanchez threw 15 changeups in his first start last week, the second most he’s ever thrown in an outing in his career. I’m guessing he’ll go back to that well given all the lefties the Yankees have in the lineup.

Wednesday (7pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TOR) vs. LHP J.A. Happ (vs. NYY)
Happ is essentially replacing David Price in the rotation. Price is gone and Happ is the guy they signed to fill the rotation spot. He had a 3.61 ERA (3.41 FIP) in 172 innings a year ago, though he was way better with the Pirates in the second half (1.85 ERA and 2.19 FIP) than he was with the Mariners in the first half (4.64 ERA and 4.12 FIP). Pittsburgh got Happ to throw his low-90s four-seam heater more often, and he located it better than ever before, but in his first start of this season he threw it only 34.8% of the time. He again shelved it in favor of his low-90s sinker for at least that one start. Happ also throws a lot of upper-80s cutters. A mid-80s changeup is his primary offspeed pitch, and he’ll flip a few upper-70s curves per start as well. Last week Happ, 33, held the Rays to two runs in six innings. He walked one and fanned four.

Thursday (7pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (vs. NYY)
Stroman, 24, is now the staff ace with Price gone. A torn ACL limited him to four starts last season (1.67 ERA and 3.54 FIP), and at this point it’s pretty clear he’s a ground ball guy (career 56.0 GB%) and not so much a strikeout guy (19.9%). Stroman will throw six different pitches but he leans on four the most: low-90s sinker, upper-80s cutter, mid-80s changeup, and mid-80s curve. He’ll throw a handful of straight low-90s four-seamers and loopy upper-70s curveballs per start. That deep repertoire has allowed him to avoid a significant platoon split early in his young career. Stroman gets himself into trouble when he tries to get cute and put guys away with his fourth or fifth (or sixth) best pitch. He was excellent in his first start (three runs in eight innings, but two runs came super late) and pretty bad in his second start (five runs in 5.1 innings) last week.

Bullpen Status

The Blue Jays are without three of their best relievers from last season. Sanchez was moved into the rotation, RHP Mark Lowe left as a free agent, and RHP Liam Hendriks was traded to the Athletics for RHP Jesse Chavez. Those three combined to allow 36 earned runs in 110 innings. That’s a 2.95 ERA. Here is the current bullpen:

2016 Stats to Date 2016 ZiPS
RHP Roberto Osuna
4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 0 HR 3.13 ERA (3.22 FIP), 27.5 K%, 7.6 BB%
RHP Drew Storen
2.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0 HR 3.10 ERA (3.21 FIP), 9.1 K/9, 2.3 BB/9
LHP Brett Cecil
2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HR 2.96 ERA (2.72 FIP), 31.0 K%, 8.4 BB%
RHP Jesse Chavez
2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR 4.33 ERA (3.93 FIP), 20.6 K%, 6.8 BB%
RHP Gavin Floyd
2.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0 HR 5.62 ERA (5.33 FIP), 16.9 K%, 7.3 BB%
RHP Arnold Leon
2.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR 5.52 ERA (5.09 FIP), 6.3 K/9, 2.8 BB/9
RHP Joe Biagini
 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0 HR N/A

Osuna, who was the youngest player on an Opening Day roster this year at 21 years and 65 days, was dynamite last season. So was Cecil, who flew under the radar. Storen has had some great years in the past, but his meltdowns are becoming more and more frequent. Gibbons has already shown a quick hook with him this year.

The rest of the bullpen is pretty sketchy. Biagini is a Rule 5 Draft pick who was in Double-A with the Giants last year. ZiPS didn’t even bother spitting out a projection for him. Chavez is an Adam Warren-esque swingman — he’s not as good as Warren, but that’s his role — and Floyd’s trying to come back from a series of elbow injuries. Leon is an out of options scrap heap arm the Blue Jays are not ready to cut ties with just yet. Cecil and Osuna are pretty formidable. The rest of the ‘pen can get got.