Sunday, July 20, 2014

The End Of The AB4AR Era

On August 30th, 2009, I was still a relative newcomer to the midwest.  Bored and missing home on that Sunday afternoon, I made the decision to start my first blog, this blog.  The decision to write about the Yankees was an easy one.  They've always been my favorite team and getting into writing about them would be a great way to stay close to them and follow them without the benefit of the YES Network that I had back in CT.  The writing was admittedly not very good early, more the ramblings of an under-educated baseball fan than true analysis.  But by writing more and by starting to read other Yankee blogs, I slowly figured out what I was missing and where I was lacking, and over the last few years I think I've managed to bring this blog up to some minimal level of respectability.

Now almost 5 years and 3,956 blogs later, the time has come to say goodbye, at least as the leader of the AB4ARmy.  Tomorrow morning I'll be starting a  full-time role over at IIATMS/TYA as the new co-Editor-In-Chief, and this 3,957th blog on AB4AR will be my last.

In a way, nothing is really changing.  I'll be writing all the same stuff I am now, just over there exclusively.  I won't be able to throw out the casual F-word anymore, but looking back at how frequently I used it in the early days of AB4AR, that's probably a good thing.  With some changes on the horizon in my personal and professional lives, it just didn't make sense to keep splitting my time anymore, and I think I've taken the minimalist blogger approach about as far I can on this site.  Maybe now I'll actually be forced to create a Twitter account.

So to everybody who's been a regular AB4AR reader for any amount of time over the last 5 years, thank you.  It's your support that got me my first opportunity at TYA and got me the chance to take this latest opportunity at IIATMS.  I hope you'll keep following and reading over at IIATMS if you don't already because we've got a really great group of writers there and we're going to be churning out a lot of quality content.  I don't want to say this is the end of AB4AR forever, but it's definitely the end of it for now.  Thanks again to everybody who's been a reader, and I'll see you on the other side tomorrow.

McCarthy Gets Back To Cutting As A Yankee

(Courtesy of Texas Leaguers)

That's Brandon McCarthy's pitch location plot from yesterday's start.  You'll notice that there are 2 very distinct locations on either side of the plate for 2 different types of fastballs.  I knew McCarthy was a sinker guy when he came over from Arizona.  What I didn't know was that he used to be a much bigger cutter guy and had gotten away from it during his time as a D'back.  Via Chad Jennings, McCarthy talked about that transition and the transition back to throwing his cutter more since joining the Yankees:

“It wasn’t something I totally agreed with.  Now, coming here, and them going back over everything I’ve done and realizing that was a big part of my success, we decided to add that back in. It’s been a nice change.”

The disagreement McCarthy is referring to is with the D'backs, who requested that McCarthy not throw the cutter as much when they acquired him.  Why an organization would feel the need to tell a pitcher to stop throwing a pitch he likes to throw and throws well is beyond me, but I guess it makes sense that Arizona is where it is right now when those types of decisions are being made.

The Yankees have been home to some of the greatest cutters in baseball history, including the originator of the pitch.  If they're going to let, and even encourage, McCarthy to throw it more, that's a very good thing for him and them.  He showed what he can do when he's commanding it yesterday, and if he can keep throwing it like that and mixing his sinker in effectively, this trade could turn into a steal for the Yanks.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Game 96 Wrap-Up: NYY 7 CIN 1

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

When the Yankees traded for Brandon McCarthy, they were doing so to make a marginal upgrade from Vidal Nuno.  With the injuries to Tanaka and Sabathia, McCarthy has immediately become more than a marginal upgrade.  He's one of the team's most important starters now and he turned in a helluva good start this afternoon in the second game of this weekend series against the Reds.  Pitching well at Yankee Stadium hasn't been his calling card, but he had it working today.  A persistent and balanced offensive effort supported his good work and got the Yanks within a game of a second half-opening sweep.

Game Notes:

- Carlos Beltran got the scoring started in the bottom of the 2nd with a solo homer off Cincy starter Alfredo Simon.  Simon had him 0-2, but hung a curveball and Beltran parked it in the right field seats.

- The Yanks doubled up the lead the next inning after Jay Bruce misplayed a Brian Roberts flyball into a 2-base error.  He moved to third on a groundout and scored on a ribbie single by Brett Gardner.

- The one mistake McCarthy made came in the top of the 5th, when he missed with a cutter and Chris Heisey hit it for a solo home run.  He worked around a double in the next at-bat to finish the inning and got through the 6th 1-2-3 with a pair of big strikeouts.

- Gardner drove in another run in the bottom of the 5th with a sac fly while Derek Jeter singled to make it 4-1 Yanks.  A slew of singles in the 6th put 3 more on the board and gave the bullpen plenty of cushion.

- They used it well, working efficiently and not putting a lot of runners on to give the Reds late scoring chances.  Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley, and Matt Thornton each pitched a scoreless frame.

Game 95 Wrap-Up: NYY 4 CIN 3

Well it wasn't a break from the norm.  The Yankees didn't score a lot of runs, didn't full capitalize on the scoring chances they created, and had to hold on for dear life for the win.  But they did so successfully and got the win they needed to open the second half.

Game Notes:

- The Yanks need more from their trio of FA hitters and they got it last night.  Brian McCann drove in a run in the 1st with a 2-out double, Carlos Beltran singled in the second run in the 3rd, and Jacoby Ellsbury cracked a 2-run home run in the 5th to account for all the scoring.

- David Phelps outpitched Mike Leake, giving up 3 runs (only 2 earned) in 6.2 innings of work, walking 1 and striking out 7.

- When it was time to go to the 'pen, Joe didn't mess around.  Dellin Betances took the ball from Phelps and got 5 consecutive outs with 3 strikeouts to bridge to the 9th and D-Rob wrapped up his 24th save with a scoreless 9th.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 7/18/14

They're closing down the highway into Milwaukee this weekend so they can rebuild a section of train bridge.  It's the latest in the long line of highway upgrade-related work and delays that are going to plague the state of Wisconsin for the next few years.  I've already resigned myself to the fact that I'm going to forget that it's closed every time I go to get on the highway to get to and from my girlfriend's house this weekend.  It's going to be awful.  I am not a smart man.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, Mike Axisa of RAB broke down the change Brian McCann made to his swing that was returning good results before the ASB.

- SJK of NoMaas showed why the Yankees should strongly consider being sellers at the deadline.

- On Tuesday, Matt Provenzano of Pinstripe Alley investigated the strange disagreement between Jacoby Ellsbury's defensive stats and the eye test.

- On Wednesday, Dan Barbarisi of The WSJ revealed the top answers to questions from his clubhouse survey.  Lotta good categories in here.

- Chad Jennings of LoHud summed up the Yankee first half in 44 sentences.

- On Thursday, Chris Mitchell of Pinstripe Pundits showed how a change in Brett Gardner's approach has led to a flip-flopping of his on-base and power outputs with no negative net change in his production.

- El duque of It Is High... lamented the major letdown that Carlos Beltran has been this season.

- Delia Enriquez of Bronx Baseball Daily identified the 6 biggest storylines of the upcoming second half.

- On Friday, Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes advocated for gutting the farm in the form of a big trade if the opportunity presents itself.  I would wholeheartedly agree.

- Katie Sharp of IIATMS/TYA dug deeper into the Yankees' team-wide struggles at home this season.

Going back to a familiar and favorite well for this week's Friday jam.  Queens of the Stone Age, "A Song for the Deaf".  Seems fitting.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.  Look for that announcement on Sunday...

Cash's Options To "Reinforce" The Rotation Are Limited

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Cue up the Cashman hate train!

Less than 2 weeks from the trade deadline and on the eve of his 47-47 team getting their 2nd half underway against the Reds, Brian Cashman spoke to Andrew Marchand yesterday about the team's plans for said deadline.  It's been over a week since the Brandon McCarthy and Jeff Francis acquisitions and the trade front has been very quiet since.  The discussion of whether the Yanks will or even should be buyers or sellers has grown louder in that time, and Cash gave some insight as to which way they might be leaning with his comments.  It's exactly what you'd expect:

Yanks Need To Get Back To Having A Home Field Advantage

Home is where the heart is.  It's also where the advantage is supposed to be for a Major League Baseball team.  That hasn't been the case for the Yankees through their first 94 games of the 2014 season.  Of the 41 they've played at Yankee Stadium, they have an 18-23 record.  They've been oustscored by 45 in those games and outhomered by 11.  Those results cannot continue in the final 68 games.

The Yanks will play 41 of these final 68 games at home, the most home games remaining for any team.  They open the second half tonight at home against Cincy in the first of what will be 10 straight at The Stadium, their longest homestand of the season.  The schedule on paper is set up very favorably for the Yankees, which should be a help to them and their bare bones backup rotation, but that favorability will only extend as far as the team's performance on the field takes it.  They haven't hit well at home, they haven't pitched well at home, and they've had no home field advantage whatsoever this year.  That needs to change if they're going to make a run.

Lindgren Starts Climbing The Ladder

It's been over a month since he was drafted and about 3 weeks since he made his pro debut, but Jacob Lindgren is already starting to show why the Yankees were so high on him in making him their first pick of the 2014 draft.  He made his High-A debut last night and did so by striking out the side in a perfect inning.  For the season he's now pitched 7 innings across 3 different levels (GCL, Low-A, High-A), and he's given up 1 ER with 0 walks and 16 strikeouts in those 7 innings.

His stuff was considered MLB-ready by most scouts at the draft and it was universally agreed upon that he was MLB-ready as a lefty specialist the minute he was drafted.  The early small sample size results are exactly what you'd expect from a college reliever with that kind of profile.  Lindgren has been efficient and dominant against lower-level MiL hitters and I don't expect him to stay in Tampa for very long.  It will be fun watching him for the next 2 months to see how aggressive the Yankees get with him and whether he works his way up to a September call up.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Aaron Judge Ranks 45th On Keith Law's Midseason Top 50 Prospects List

Keith Law released his midseason top 50 prospect rankings list today, the update from his preseason top 100.  The lone Yankee representative was Aaron Judge, the 22-year-old outfielder who's made a lot of noise in A-ball this season after an injury prevented him from starting his pro career in 2013.  Judge has hit .321/427/.523 in 386 plate appearances, three-quarters of which were spent at Low-A Charleston, with 13 HR, 54 R scored, 61 RBI, and 59 BB.  He did not make Law's preseason top 100.

When describing Judge and his performance so far this season, Law had this to say:

"Judge is a beast at 6-7 and 230 (or more) pounds, but with a surprisingly short path to the ball for a guy his size and plenty of loft in his finish for power. He's also quite mobile for someone his size and should be an above-average or better defender in right, with plenty of arm to stay there as well."

Basically touched on all 5 tools in those 2 sentences and had positive comments about all 5.  Judge has impressed many with his patient approach and compact swing, potentially raising the ceiling of his hitting tool that had been in question.  Right now, he profiles as a guy who will hit for a lot of power, some average, and provide above-average defense, all things the Yankee lineup could use.  Law acknowledges this by saying Judge "could be the middle-of-the-order bat the Yankees have tried to develop for years."

Is David Phelps Starting To Settle In?

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

For the third straight year, David Phelps opened the season as part of the Yankee bullpen.  For the third straight year, injuries to multiple starters have pushed him into the rotation.  Phelps took a spot in the rotation on May 5th and has been a fixture there ever since.  With Sabathia's knee a mystery and Tanaka's elbow a huge concern, the odds are good that Phelps will remain in this role for the rest of the season.

Phelps' performance as a starter this time around has been pretty good.  In 13 starts he's pitched to a 3.96/4.08/4.22 slash line with 60 strikeouts and 29 walks in 77.1 innings pitched.  It's a sizable improvement from the near 5.00 ERA he posted in 12 starts in 2013, a performance that halted some of the momentum he'd made for himself in a strong rookie year and probably got him slotted behind Michael Pineda in this spring's 5th starter competition.  With new guys like McCarthy and Greene adjusting to their new environment, Phelps has become a much more important piece of the rotation along with fellow holdover Hiroki Kuroda.

Thursday Morning Food For Thought: A Simple Lineup Switch

Talking about the need for Joe to make lineup changes is almost a dead horse topic at this point.  He's fiddled where and when he could, but regular injuries and subpar performance have handcuffed any chances for real results.  He's not going to move Derek Jeter out of the 2-spot, he can't count on Carlos Beltran being a reliable run producer in the middle, and if he had somebody better than Ichiro to hit 7th he would be using him now.  The Yankee lineup is what it is.

Except for 1 easy and almost stupidly logical move that Joe can still make.  He could swap Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner in the batting order.  Ellsbury can go back and hit first like he was always supposed to, and Gardner, one of the hottest hitters on the team, can move down to a better run-producing spot in front of Teix.  Ellsbury's a better base stealer, Gardner has hit for more power, what is there to lose?  I doubt it's going to happen, but I'm rooting for it when the lineup card comes out tomorrow afternoon.

P.S.- For more on this topic, check out William Tasker's post from Tuesday at IIATMS/TYA.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Evaluating The New Acquisitions At The Break

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

A popular thing to do in the blog world at the All-Star break is hand out midterm grades to your team's players and their first half performances.  Most of the grades you'd see from me if I were to do that would be C's, and that's not just because the Yankees have a .500 record and have looked blah in every way through 94 games.  For the most part, things have gone the way the way they had been going and the way they were expected to go for the returning Yankee core.  Father time has caught up to guys like Derek Jeter and Hiroki KurodaIvan Nova and Michael Pineda have provided more questions than answers about their futures, and CC Sabathia's performance decline has continued in perfect harmony with his physical decline.  These guys are who we thought they were and who we were afraid they'd become.

It was the new guys on the block who were supposed to be the fixers.  They were the ones who were going to propel the holdover group back into the playoffs and bridge the gap into the next generation of Yankee baseball.  Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and Masahiro Tanaka, the $458 billion saviors.  Or so we thought.  Expectations have hardly been met by this group, although their respective performances have hardly been poor across the board, and some of the blame for the team's present position falls on some of these shoulders.  Here's a quick recap of how that half bil investment is paying off so far.

Luis Severino Promoted To Double-A

I know a lot of people aren't fans of this move, saying it was too soon and that Severino would have benefited more from spending the rest of this year in Tampa.  Here's why all of those people are wrong.  Severino averaged a shade under 5 IP per start with a 2.79 ERA and a 25.3% K rate in 67.2 IP at Low-A before getting bumped to Tampa.  In 4 starts there he's averaged a shade OVER 5 IP with a 1.31 ERA and 35.0% K rate in 20.2 IP.  He's been markedly better against what is supposed to be better competition.  There's nothing left for him to learn at the High-A level and so he should be moved up.  Keeping him in Tampa solely for the sake of keeping him there would be a waste of time.

By moving Severino up to Double-A, the Yankees are giving him a real challenge and giving themselves and the rest of baseball a new measuring stick by which to evaluate his talents.  The jump from High-A to Double-A is much bigger than Low-A to High-A, and a good performance here for the rest of this year will legitimize all the early praise and prospect ranking raises Severino has received and solidify him as one of the best young pitching prospects in baseball.  If he does experience a few growing pains, then he can spend more time at this level next year to work on things.  Really a no-lose situation for him and the Yankees if you think about it.

Briefly On Jeter's Last All-Star Game...

(Courtesy of USA TODAY Sports)

I thought it was awesome.  All of it.  Most of what went down last night is going to get swallowed up in Adam Wainwright-gate today, and that's fine.  I really don't care if he grooved a pitch for Jeter or not.  As tiresome as the MSM's love for Jeter can get, and I've admittedly soured on a lot of his media-made reputation as I've gotten older, last night was really cool to watch.  It was great seeing how much respect and genuine admiration all the players had for him, it was great seeing the old inside-out swing for a double down the right field line again, and it was great to see Jeter make that diving stop in the 1st and show that he can still dial it up and do stuff like that from time to time, even at age 40.

There are great players, good players, All Stars, and MVPs, but there are very few generational players in baseball.  Derek Jeter is a generational player.  He's one of, if not the first player you think of when you think of the last 20 years of baseball, and hundreds of years from now when people are looking back through history, he'll still be the first name associated with this era.  Players like that deserve to have a special send-off from their peers and fellow competitors and fans and it was neat to get to watch Jeter get that moment last night.  It was cool with Mo, it was cool with Cal Ripken, and it was cool last night.  Even somebody as jaded on Jeter as me can admit and appreciate that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Quick Hit: No Extension Talks For D-Rob

Via Anthony McCarron:

“This offseason, my numbers from this year are going to count, so why focus on what’s going to happen then instead of what’s happening now?

... We’ll see what happens. There haven’t been any talks, so we’ll see.

... There’s just been zero talks. When the offseason comes, it comes and we’ll hear what other teams and everybody else wants to say.”

On the one hand, this sounds like a player who's got his mind in the right place and is focused on the right things.  He's not worried about his contract situation.  On the other, it does sound  to me like D-Rob might not be totally happy that there haven't been any talks at all.  He did say "it's not my call" when asked if he preferred to wait until the offseason to discuss an extension.  On a human level, I could understand him being a bit frustrated if he's communicated that he wants to stay a Yankee and hasn't had anything reciprocated by the team.

For as much as people want to say that giving big money, multi-year deals to relievers is dumb, D-Rob is going to get some big offers if and when he hits the open market this offseason.  He's proven himself to be more than capable of replacing Mo as the closer and Dellin Betances' presence shouldn't be justification for letting him walk so much as motivation to retain both and have the final 2-3 innings of games locked down for the next few years.  The team didn't engage Brett Gardner during the season last year and worked out an extension with him.  I certainly hope they're planning to repeat that strategy with D-Rob this year.

The Chase Whitley Experiment Has To End In The Second Half

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

I can't imagine there was a scenario where Joe envisioned things being so bad in his rotation this year that he had to use Chase Whitley as a regular member of it.  Even the worst of your average worst-case scenarios don't get that bad.  When CC Sabathia joined Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova on the DL in mid-May, that worst-case scenario came about in real life and the Yankees were forced to go to the Whitley well.  The move proved to be a good one for a while.  Whitley allowed 2 ER or less in 6 of his first 7 starts, 3 in the other, and gave the battered rotation a needed boost by eliminating walks and keeping the ball in the ballpark.

Right around the time that he got stretched out to a comfortable starter's pitch count, however, the performance started to sour and sour in a hurry.  Whitley gave up 8 ER in only 3.1 innings against the Blue Jays on June 23rd, his first time facing a team for a second time, and followed that up by allowing 5 in 4+ innings against the Red Sox on June 29th.  1 more bad start against the Twins in early July in which he didn't get out of the 4th inning and Whitley was booted from the rotation only to return on Sunday as an injury replacement again, this time for Masahiro Tanaka.  A scoreless 3 innings to start that game quickly turned to a 3-run 4th inning and another quick hook from Joe to go to his bullpen.  In terms of the souring analogy, Whitley has rapidly gone way past his expiration date as a starter.  If the Yankees are to have even the slightest chance of contending for a Wild Card spot, they cannot allow him to continue as part of the rotation in the second half.

Some Random Yankee-Centric Numbers At The Break

- The Opening Day rotation has started 53 of the team's 94 games (56.4%)

- Of the 41 other starts, 40 of them have been made by pitchers with a combined 26 career starts before this season.

- 23 of those 26 career starts belong to David Phelps.

- Yankee second basemen YTD: .251/.322/.395, 43 R, 27 RBI
- Robinson Cano YTD: .334/.393/.462, 49 R, 57 RBI

- Carlos Beltran YTD: .216/.271/.401, -0.8 fWAR in 255 PA
- Curtis Granderson YTD: .237/.346/.422, 1.8 fWAR in 387 PA

- Since the start of May, David Robertson has struck out 49.1% of all batters he's faced (54 of 110).

- Yanks w/ RISP: .251/.321/.363
- Yanks w/ RISP, 2 outs: .213/.295/.308

- Record: 47-47, -37 run differential (4th worst in the AL)


Yanks Release Soriano, Clear A Roster Spot

While the eyes of the baseball world were on the Home Run Derby last night, the Yankees were conducting a bit of roster business in preparation for the second half of the season.  Alfonso Soriano was released outright after being designated for assignment on July 6th.  To no one's amazement, nobody wanted to trade for a washed up outfielder with no bat speed.  They also sent Bryan Mitchell back down to Triple-A, leaving them with 24 men on the active roster.

For Soriano, this is a sad way to end his second stint in pinstripes.  He was electric upon his initial return last year, smacking 17 HR in less than 60 games to give fans something to cheer about.  That success did not carry over to this season, as his .221/.244/.367 slash line and career-worst 29.8% K rate said more about what he had left in the tank than any of his words ever could.  I have to think this move will lead to Soriano announcing his retirement after this season.

As for the roster spot, I hope it's for another starting pitcher.  The Yanks cannot continue to let Chase Whitley work as a starter, even with Tanaka out, and that's something I'll discuss in greater detail later this morning.  They should move him back to the bullpen and replace Mitchell with a new 5th starter.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Morning Musings After A Week Off

(Originally posted at IIATMS/TYA)

I got to watch the Germany-Brazil World Cup semifinal match on Tuesday in Germany at an outdoor hotel bar surrounded by German people.  Say what you want about the sport itself, but soccer fans are easily the most passionate, energetic sports fans in the world.  The amount of celebrating that was going on in the streets of Hannover after the game was similar to what we see in the US when major colleges win their football or basketball national championships.  And this game wasn't even for a championship.  Soccer people just LOVE them some soccer.  I can't think of a time in the last 5 years when a Yankee Stadium environment was even close to half as crazy as that scene.

Not that the Yankees have given the fans much reason to cheer this season.  Or last.  They've been just as bad and almost as boring as last year's team, and they figure to get more boring in the second half now that Masahiro Tanaka is on the DL.  I love blogging about the Yankees and getting a chance to write something outside of the normal business tone, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't glad to have a week off from this last week.  This whole organization has stagnated to such a degree that it's hard to muster up the energy to get mad when they lose or get too happy when they win anymore.

Now that I've had a chance to get back home, recharge, and catch up on everything I've missed, here are some hot takes on the Yanks and their position in the AL as they stumble into the All-Star break.

Severino And O'Brien Do What They Do In The Futures Game

The MLB Futures Game kicked off All-Star Week yesterday, and the Yankees were represented by a pair of prospects.  Luis Severino from High-A Tampa and Peter O'Brien from Double-A Trenton were the reps, playing for the World and USA teams respectively.  In their first performances on a big national stage, each displayed in a small sample size their calling cards as prospects.

Severino was the 4th World pitcher to enter the game and he worked a scoreless inning in the 4th, allowing 1 base hit and striking a batter out.  The strikeout victim was Joey Gallo, baseball HR leader and eventual game MVP, and Keith Law had Severino sitting 93-95 with his fastball.  O'Brien went 0-2 with 2 strikeouts, a somewhat expected result given his free-swinging tendencies.  Against the best pitchers the Minors have to offer, it's understandable that those skills overshadowed his high power potential.

All in all, not a bad night for the Yankee system in the Futures Game.  Just the fact that they got 2 reps for the first time in a few years is a step in the right direction for the organization.

Game 94 Wrap-Up: BAL 3 NYY 1

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Saturday's win guaranteed the Yankees at least a .500 record at the All Star break this year.  I have to imagine they were hoping for and expecting much better than that when they dropped their half billion dollars this past offseason, but underperformance and another rash of serious injuries to major contributors have combined to keep that from happening.  The truth of the matter is that the Yankees are lucky to be where they are right now, and a road win against the Orioles to give the them the series and send them into the ASB with consecutive would have been a nice morale boost.  Instead, they got treated to a rain-shortened loss to send them into the break bumming.

Game Notes:

- Kevin Gausman is one of the best pitching prospects in baseball for a reason, but he made a classic rookie mistake throwing Brett Gardner 4 straight fastballs to open the game last night.  Gardner smacked the 4th one for a leadoff home run to right to get the Yanks on the board quickly.

- Chase Whitley looked pretty good making that stand up through 3 innings.  He was making pitches and getting outs when he needed to and getting swings and misses on his offspeed stuff.

- When the heart of the order got their second look at him in the 4th, things changed.  Nelson Cruz drew a 5-pitch walk to lead it off, Chris David crushed a 2-run home run the opposite way to give Baltimore the lead (on a pretty good pitch down and in), and JJ Hardy doubled off the wall to left.  Whitley got the next 2 outs, but couldn't keep the 3rd run from scoring and saw his night end before the 4th was over.

- Not much happened in the top of the 5th and then the rains came to delay the game.  The initial estimate was only a 30-minute storm, but that extended into 2+ hours and the teams agreed to call it a day.  Pretty fitting ending to the Yankees' first half.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Shane Greene's Stock Rising As His Sinker Sinks

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

In Spring Training, Shane Greene drew some attention for how well he pitched.  While the overall SSS numbers weren't sparkling (4 ER, 8 H in 7.2 IP), Greene did strike out 10 batters and show the kind of stuff capable of getting Major League hitters out.  Working exclusively in a relief role and then getting shuttled between Triple-A and the Majors early in the regular season in that same role got him off kilter, as did an early injury, and his results once he returned to his regular starting role weren't that impressive.  He was consistently inconsistent at best and mildly disappointing at worst.

Since the middle of June, however, it's been a different story.  Greene allowed only 6 ER over 28 IP in his last 5 Triple-A starts with 23 strikeouts and 10 walks, and after Masahiro Tanaka went on the DL with his UCL tear it was Greene who got the call as his replacement in the Major League rotation.  All he did this past week in his first 2 Major League starts was throw 13.1 innings of 2-run ball with an 11/2 K/BB split and pick up the win in both starts.  Not bad for a guy who wasn't much of a thought as a legitimate organizational prospect before the start of last season.

Sunday Morning Food For Thought: Does Rob Thomson Need To Go?

Fellow IIATMS teammate Katie Sharp tweeted that stat out last night and it absolutely blew me away.  I knew the Yankees had lost a few runs this year by getting thrown out at the plate. It's going to happen more than a few times over the course of the season, but that many?  In a little more than 90 games??  That's incredibly problematic, and suggestive of something more than just bad luck or great defensive plays.

Take the second gun down at the plate last night.  Jacoby Ellsbury had barely reached third base when Adam Jones picked up the single hit to him in the outfield.  Jones has a cannon for an arm, something that's no longer a surprise to anybody in baseball, and yet Rob Thomson chose to send Ellsbury anyway.  Ellsbury was predictably thrown out and the inning was over.

When you struggle to score runs as much as the Yankees do, every run is important.  They can't afford to be giving away runs with careless baserunning and the high number of runs they've given up by getting thrown out at the plate has to fall on Thomson's shoulders.  Firing him now will do little to change the team's overall offensive problems, but after this season maybe it's time for Joe to shake up his coaching staff and bring somebody new in to handle third, somebody who can make better decisions and not run his team out of potential runs by being unnecessarily aggressive.

Game 93 Wrap-Up: NYY 3 BAL 0

(Courtesy of the AP)

These interdivisional games are going to be crucial if the Yankees are going to have even the slightest hope of hanging around in the playoff races while Tanaka is on the shelf.  They blew a golden opportunity to take the opener against the Orioles on Friday when the offense couldn't come through again and wasted a great start by David Phelps.  Rookie Shane Greene was back on the hill yesterday for his second start of the week and he turned in another stellar performance of his own.  The offense didn't do much to help him either, but the bullpen was up to the task of securing the victory and sending the Yanks to a critical rubber match today.

Game Notes:

- The Yanks left 2 men on base in the top of the 2nd, and looked primed to do the same in the 3rd after Jacoby Ellsbury struck out looking.  Mark Teixeira lined a double to right to score 1 run and not totally waste the scoring chance, although Derek Jeter was gunned down at the plate to end the inning.

- Greene retired the first 10 Orioles he faced, using his hard sinker to generate lots of GB outs and set up his slider and curveball.  His first baserunner allowed came on a 1-out walk in the 4th and the Orioles didn't get their first hit until the 5th.

- That hit turned into 2, and Greene had to strike out Nick Hundley to halt that threat.  The O's put 2 more men on in the bottom of the 6th with no outs and once again Greene escaped with a GB double play and another K.

- With the lead intact, the offense came around to give him a little insurance in the top of the 7th.  Kelly Johnson singled, took second on a wild pitch, and scored on a Jeter single, and Ellsbury doubled to right to score Jeter and extend the lead to 3-0.

- Greene pitched into the 8th before giving way to the bullpen.  Shawn Kelley cleaned up David Huff's mess to end the 8th and David Robertson pitched a perfect 9th with 2 more strikeouts to save the win.  Impressive start, impressive finish.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Week Gone By And Not Much Has Changed

Greetings from the Hannover airport, gang.  I got here way too early for my flight to Paris and had to pay for wifi, but whatever.  The important thing is my week of work training is over, the time gap between me and the baseball world is starting to shrink as I head back home today, and the blogging can resume as normal.

At first glance, it looks like I missed a lot in the last week.  Masahiro Tanaka has gone on the DL with a torn UCL that is going to eventually require TJS and the resulting lost year  no matter how good the Yankees think their rehab strategy is (spoiler alert- it's not).  There are 3 new starting pitchers in the rotation in the form of the called up Shane Greene and the traded for Brandon McCarthy and Jeff Francis.  None of that inspires confidence, but those are pretty big changes, right?

Not really.  The reality of the situation is that nothing has changed in Yankeeland.  For better or worse really.  They went 3-3 in the past week with a -4 run differential, putting them at 46-46 on the season with a -38 run differential.  They still can't hit (looking at you, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran), their bullpen is still drastically overworked and not deep enough to account for that, and they're still just close enough to the playoff races - 5 out in the division and 2.5 out of the wild card - to not really be out of them while at the same time not really qualifying as "contenders".  The All-Star break is coming at the perfect time for them, but there's little reason to expect the second half to be any better or different than the first.  This year's team has officially become more mediocre and more boring than last year's.  Gotta love Yankee baseball!

P.S.- Sorry about your broken face and concussion, Carlos.  Gotta keep that head on a swivel, chief.